So, it looks like there's a pretty good chance Columbia County commissioners will allow voters in November to decide whether they want to raise their taxes to build an indoor swimming pool.
The commission was to discuss the issue Tuesday evening, along with setting the language for the sales tax vote in November.
This suggestion for allowing a separate vote on the pool actually came out a couple of weeks ago. Commission Chairman Ron Cross floated the idea of pulling the natatorium out of the sales tax referendum and making it a separate question.
Supporters would still get a crack at persuading voters to approve the idea, but if it proved to be unpopular it wouldn't sink the sales tax referendum.
It's a mixed blessing for pool supporters. Buried in the sales tax, it would have a good chance of passing along with all the paving projects, water lines and soccer fields. Taking it alone and tying to a property tax increase (which is how general obligation bonds usually are paid off) could drain support for the project.
Have I used enough water metaphors yet?
In any event, if commissioners do decide to allow the pool to be considered as a separate item, the supporters of a clubhouse at Bartram Trail should call for similar treatment.
Their project also received a cool reception from commissioners in the recent sales-tax meeting, even though a significant number of public comments support the facility.
There's no doubt it would enhance the golf course, which now has a pitiful excuse for a clubhouse. But the project just doesn't have wide enough use or appeal to justify its inclusion in the sales tax referendum, and commissioners are sensitive to such seemingly special-interest projects becoming lightning rods for opposition to their overall sales tax renewal.
But there has to be a limit. It's unlikely voters would be inclined to look kindly on a laundry list of items for spending approval, and if more separate items were on the ballot just the number could turn voters off from all of them - even if some, like the sales tax, are undoubtedly good ideas.
In any event, it looks like commissioners could be inclined to put the natatorium on the ballot - not as part of the sales tax referendum as its supporters ideally wanted, but as a separate item so it doesn't drown the sales tax.
For the pool's supporters, then, November's vote could be their time to sink or swim.
(Sorry; I couldn't resist.)
Columbia County school officials made an extraordinarily nice gesture last week when they established an award in memory of Preston Blanchard.
The former co-owner of Carter-Blanchard Office Supply and son of the late John Pierce Blanchard, the legendary Columbia County school superintendent, passed away in January after fighting cancer for two years.
Preston, who at one time was editor of this newspaper, was a dedicated supporter of the school system and made sure his company his company did likewise.
He was one of the early members of the county's school business partnership program. When the school system held its annual business partner breakfast last week, it was the first since Preston's death.
In his memory, the school system has established the Preston Blanchard Outstanding Partner in Business Award. Fittingly, the first award went to Preston's family - including his three surviving brothers.
Superintendent Charles Nagle says the criteria for future award-winners hasn't yet been established, but certainly just being an all-around nice guy (or gal) will be among the requirements.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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