One by one, nine people voiced their concerns about the $23 million Multi-Use Complex at the city council's packed house at Monday's special meeting.
Eight individuals spoke in favor of opening the natatorium with one person speaking on neutral grounds. Several who signed up to speak, changed their mind.
Diane Goodman said her 9-year-old son has asthma and would like to have a place for him to swim for his health.
“I'm already going to Corpus,” she said. “For health issues, this will help a lot of kids in our community.”
Belinda Silva, a former educator, said she would volunteer to help ease the burden.
“I hold all of you accountable to give me the right,” she said. “Give me what I need...give them a safe haven for our children.”
Local attorney Gian Carlo Nisimblat said the council needed to come up with some sort of solution and would be glad to assist.
“Sadly since fall of 2015, it has remained locked,” Nisimblat said. “Be creative – think out of the box...mayor, council, what can I do to help open the Alice aquatic center? Inaction is inexcusable.”
Sixth grade student Bria Escobar who is also on the swim team and has gone to state for 5 years, pleaded with the council.
“I have been waiting, waiting, waiting,” she said. “I'm ready to start practicing in Alice, not Corpus.”
Developer Newell W. Atkinson crunched numbers he retrieved directly from the City of Alice's website and gave a rundown of possible scenarios.
“I am not neither advocating nor supporting either example,” Atkinson said. “If the city decided to cover the entire $7.3 million deficit with a property tax increase, the following is how much city taxes would need to be increased.”
He said to cover the shortage on tax revenue, there would have to be a tax increase of 343 percent.
Mayor Ike Ornelas was in favor of opening the natatorium and gave a power point presentation that showed only a difference of $123,000 if the pool was open versus kept closed.
“We will become a better community,” Ornelas said.
But the rest of the council has made comparisons with other cities the size of Alice and the number they have calculated is more like $500,000 yearly for operating expenses.
Councilman Pete Beltran proposed to open the facility if the half-million dollars can be raised.
“We have to find a way to own our problem,” Beltran said.
Beltran told those in attendance in order to open the natatorium center, the city is needing 300 families to buy into a membership for $150 a month, a pre-paid one-year program for $1,800. That would equate to $540,000, which is one year's expenses.
“We pass by there each day – it hurts to see it closed,” he said.
The council voted 4-0 to form a committee to include some of the people who attended and iron out the details of memberships for family, family plus one or two and individuals along with sponsorships and name rights.
Councilman Leo Escobar said the proposition can become a reality.
“It can happen and we can do it,” he said.
Councilman Ron Burke agreed.
“I hope it is successful,” Burke said.
Councilman Michael Esparza said the community needs to step in.
“We need to have the community to buy in,” Esparza said. “The quicker we can get those commitments, the quicker we can get this open.”