Officials planning for aquatics center near old DHR building
PELL CITY — A municipal recreation/aquatics center is close to becoming a reality, according to Mayor Joe Funderburg.

“We’re this close,” Funderburg said, holding up his hand with his index finger and thumb about an inch apart.

Officials said a new recreation center, which would include aquatics, would be constructed next to the proposed new library on 21acres near the former St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital.

Officials proposed that the Department of Human Resources building, also on the land, would be renovated as a city library.

City Manager Patrick Draper said a local builder examined the facility and said it could be used for a library.

“Walls can be taken out,” Draper said. “It’s doable.”

Funderburg said the city could build and own the new recreation/aquatics center, and lease out the facility.

“We’re not far,” he said.

City officials would not disclose who the city was in discussions with about the proposed center.

“I want the community to know we are working on this project for the city and the surrounding area,” Draper said. “It is a recreational center, which could include aquatics.”

He said nothing is set in stone at this point.

“We are looking at several options,” Draper said. “We’re exploring all the options that may be available to us.”

Officials continue to be optimistic that the city will eventually have an aquatics center.

“I would say we stand a good chance at this point and time, but we have not entered into any type of contract,” Draper said.

He said the city is in the initial stages of negotiations.

Draper said the city would probably go into partnership with an organization or business that would actually run the facility for the city.

“I’m not at liberty to say who we are talking to at this time,” he said.

He said the project is a quality of life issue.

“I want people to know we are working to satisfy this need, and I do call it a need,” Draper said.

He said a recreation/aquatic center could attract new industries and businesses.

The council is expected to accept the deed transferred from the St. Clair County Commission for the former DHR and hospital property at today’s council meeting.

Funderburg said the old hospital would be torn down and the city would utilize the remaining property, apart from the library and aquatics center, for commercial use.

Draper said city officials could make an announcement about the recreational/aquatic center during the first quarter of next year.

“I think we could make an announcement as early as February or March,” Funderburg said.

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