The city of Charleston has been awarded a federal grant of $215,810 to help finance construction of a public swimming pool on Shade Street in east Charleston.
In a Sept. 16 letter to Mayor Sedrick Smith, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ Outdoor Recreation Grant Division announced that the city’s application for federal funding assistance for the project was approved.
The federal monies, issued on a 50/50 matching fund basis, were awarded by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service through its Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The total cost of the swimming pool project is estimated at $431,620. An engineering firm drew up the preliminary design and cost estimate for the city.
The remaining cost of the project would be funded in part by $150,000 which state Rep. Tommy Reynolds had inserted into a state general bond bill during the 2021 legislative session. The money is set aside for the “City of Charleston Shade Street Health Complex Fund.”
An additional $53,000 for the swimming pool would come from funds generated by a 2% sales tax on foods and beverages prepared and sold in Charleston. Proceeds from the special municipal tax, approved by voters in a March 2020 referendum, are earmarked for parks, recreation and tourism promotion.
Smith said the planned development on city-owned land is just another in a three-part phase he envisions for Shade Street, where a paved walking trail was constructed in 2019 using other grant funds.
“Shade Street is being done in what I call phases,” said Smith. “The walking trail would be phase 1, the swimming pool would be phase 2, and if there’s any more that we could add to it, we would add if the area allows.”
The mayor explained that the swimming pool project will gobble up the bulk of remaining land area at the site, located at the corner of Shade and North Vine streets.
Plans for the pool call for construction of a concrete swimming pool with pool equipment including pump and utility services, a pump house, concrete poolside surface, artificial turf areas, office/concession, restrooms, an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant chair lift, lifeguard stand, sliding board and diving board, all enclosed within a fence, perimeter landscaping and a parking area with access off Shade Street.
Smith said there is no set timeline for the work, but he expects groundbreaking for the project to be held no later than the summer of 2022.
With the Shade Street property located less than one block from Charleston Elementary School, Reynolds said he envisions expansion of the city’s present partnership with the East Tallahatchie School District.
“The children can have fun in the swimming pool, learn how to swim and get some physical exercise,” Reynolds noted. “This is an area that is right near the school and it should help the children’s health, both physically and mentally.
“People talk about children, but if children don’t have something to do good and wholesome, what exactly is going to happen to them?” the lawmaker continued. “This gives that opportunity, and I have really been looking forward to this.”
Smith, too, said he hopes the school system “will take full advantage of [the pool] and teach swim classes and things like that.”
Charleston officials have been exploring the possibility of a swimming pool development for several years, and Reynolds said the 2% city tax adopted last year helped to pave the way toward making it a reality.
“The residents of Charleston, when they approved the tourism and parks tax, they helped make this possible. So you’ve got to give a pat on the back,” he stated.