Operating Deficit Forces City to Close Public Pool — Updated

ANDERSON, South Carolina, January 20. A Facebook campaign has begun to keep a South Carolina pool open past a planned closing date of January 30.

According to a story in the Anderson Independent Mail, the Sheppard Swim Center is the only operating public pool in Anderson, S.C., but the facility has been running a $334,000 deficit since last June. Last week, city manager John Moore announced that the pool's four full-time employees would be laid off and the pool closed on January 30.

The Sheppard Swim Center opened in 1975 as a joint venture with the city's public school district, though the district began withdrawing funding in 2006. Since February 2010, city officials have asked for outside funding to keep the pool open, but according to the article, no one stepped forward. Though the pool will be closed, the city will transfer ownership of the land on which the pool sits back to the school district.

The city's other public pool, Hudgens Swim Center, closed in 2009.

The city operates a USA Swimming club, called the Anderson Swim Club. Efforts to retain pool space at Sheppard through at least March are underway. The team's booster club president, Michael Beckish, is meeting with officials of the city and school district next week to discuss contingency plans for the team and a budget to keep the pool running.

"I'm basically going to throw myself on their mercy to come up with a temporary plan," said Beckish, the father of three swimmers on the team. "If we lose one day as a team, it's going to be hard to keep us together."

Even if the team is allowed to continue using the pool after its official closing, Beckish said the Sheppard Swim Center in its current condition is not an ideal place for a growing swim team.

"It's 35 years old and held together with duct tape and super glue," Beckish said. Either the team will raise money to renovate the pool or use that money to fund operations of another pool near Anderson. Team fundraisers — including a Swim-A-Thon — and support of local businesses can make that happen, Beckish said.

Head Coach Tommy Starkwater hopes the team does not lose any pool time in preparation for the state meet in two weeks. Since taking the job last September, he said the team morale has improved greatly.

"The team has gone from 12th place at state to fifth," Starkwater said. "We have a renewed zeal for competitive swimming that hasn't been here since the '80s."

Residents of Anderson who used the Sheppard Swim Center for recreational swimming will be able to become members of the Anderson Area YMCA for reduced fees, and the city is paying the YMCA $7,500 to help fund swimming lessons.

Full text of the Anderson Independent Mail article

Click here to visit the Save Sheppard Swim Center Facebook page.