LARGO – City Commissioner Curtis Holmes floated the idea June 19 of asking a private organization whether it would be interested in running Largo's Southwest Pool, but the suggestion didn’t get too far.
Holmes, expressing concerns about “budget woes,” said Largo officials had presented an option of closing the pool to save money.
He said that West Florida Lightning Aquatics approached the city a couple of years ago about running the pool operation.
“I met with those people two years ago, and they had this idea they could run the whole thing,” he said, “basically by themselves. I don’t know where it went from there, and do we want the parks department and city administration to contact WFLA and see if there is an interest in having a greater role in the Southwest Pool?”
Mayor Pat Gerard didn’t have any interest in having WFLA run the city pool.
“I think if we are going to have a pool there, that it needs to be open to all the citizens, and in fact I think the limited amount of time that just ordinary people have open swim there has always been a disappointment to me,” Gerard said.
Commisioner Harriet Crozier said at this time the commission hasn’t started to “hash out the budget.”
Commissioners are looking at cutting about $2.79 million from the budget.
“I’m not even looking at alternatives at this point,” Crozier said. “I’m trying to stick with what’s been given to us and can we make that work, and so I’m not really interested in that at this time.”
The option of closing the Olympic-sized pool two years ago in preliminary budget cut discussions ended when City Manager Mac Craig told a crowd of concerned citizens at the Largo Library that the city would keep it open.
West Florida Lightning Aquatics offers a variety of competitive year-round, swimming programs that include age groups from novice to advanced levels broken down as silver, junior, senior, and national teams. The club has several events at the Southwest Pool.
Holmes also asked if commissioners were interested approaching Belleair Bluffs about the Largo Police Department serving the city.
“Confidence is high we can give Belleair Bluffs the same level of police service that the sheriff is giving them, and we can probably do it for a little bit less money than the sheriff is charging and this was brought up to the city manager,” Holmes said.
He said the Belleair Bluffs contract with the Sheriff’s Office comes up in October and if Largo can provide the same level of service to Belleair Bluffs and reduce its costs, “I think it would be a great benefit to a neighborhood community.”
Craig said he would discuss the issue with Police Chief John Carroll. Staff was also asked by Commissioner Woody Brown to provide information on the benefits to city residents of the city providing police services to the Bluffs.
Another suggestion from Holmes at the meeting drew some interest: the Largo Central Park Railroad Inc. charging for its rides.
Holmes said he “loves” the miniature Largo Central Park Railroad, which provides free rides to park visitors on the first full weekend of each month at Largo Central Park.
“But we are still spending $25,000 a year to pay their liability insurance. I don’t know why we don’t encourage those people to charge at least 25 cents for a ride. If they would charge each person 25 cents, which I don’t think that’s a staggering amount of money, they could actually raise enough money to pay for their own insurance,” Holmes said.
Staff will contact the railroad organization about the feasibility of paying for its own liability insurance.