Michelle Mann

The best time to remind people about a public town hall meeting is after a city council’s decision has been made.

That is the day people generally say, “Are you kidding me? When did that get decided?”

But in the hopes that the day before a public town hall meeting is a good day to remind people that there is a public town hall meeting, here goes: There is a public town hall meeting tomorrow, Thursday, March 7.

The town hall meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Enterprise Civic Center and the public is invited.

At issue is whether there will be a new recreation and aquatics center for the City of Progress and if so, how will it be paid for.

That the current rec center building is more than half a century old and the equally-old, now defunct city swimming pool was decommissioned several years ago is not the question.

The question is what can be done about it. It’s a question that has been officially discussed by the Enterprise City Council since about 2017.

The first step in the process was a day long bus trip in October 2017 to visit the Auburn University Wellness Center and the Opelika Sportsplex Aquatics Center.

As one of two folks from The Southeast Sun on board that bus, I can tell you first hand that both state-of-the-art facilities were beyond amazing.

What was especially interesting about the Opelika Sportsplex was that it exists now because of a public-private partnership.

The land had been donated by a family, with the stipulation that a rec center be built within a specified time or the land would revert to the family. That set the wheels in motion and other private donors committed to having a state-of-the-art recreation/aquatics facility in their city stepped up to the plate.

The public-private partnership concept is just common sense and the citizens of Opelika clearly realized that as evidenced by sponsorship name plates on display throughout the facility.

Clearly the process was more time consuming and detail-intensive but here is the condensed version of what happened next. After the bus tour in 2017, Enterprise Parks and Recreation Department Director Billy Powell and a citizen-committee rolled up their sleeves and went to work.

Powell’s committee recommended that Seay, Seay and Litchfield and RDG Planning and Design Company be hired to conduct a conceptual design plan to determine the feasibility of building a new state-of-the-art recreation facility that would include an aquatics center.

The Enterprise City Council approved the committee’s recommendation, hired the firms and the firms rolled up their sleeves and went to work.

Hundreds of people attended an interactive community forum held at the civic center in 2018 which was the first of the two public forums planned by the team to gain community input about what elements should be included in a rec center and where it should be built.

The forum Thursday is the second such meeting.

What is on the agenda at Thursday’s public meeting is a proposed facility design, a proposed location and possible elements developed by the planning and design team after months of gathering information from the public.

It’s being billed as a public town hall meeting but maybe we should better think of it as the beginning of a community-wide team effort.

Michelle Mann is a staff writer for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at mmann@southeastsun.com.

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