WATAUGA — The response to the new Watauga Community Recreation Center has been tremendous, according to Watauga County Parks and Recreation Director Stephen Poulos.
As of July 20, the Watauga Community Recreation center had 2,694 members and had collected $46,995 in daily fees from people who are not members that purchase a daily pass. Poulos provided the update at the July 20 Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting. The center has experienced 175 to 400 daily visitors.
“This is my 30th year and I’ve never received more compliments and happy people that are very pleased to see all the activities going on in (the recreation center),” Poulos told the board.
Poulos got choked up speaking to the board when he recalled a woman who told him that one of the people who has been doing water aerobics at the center has Alzheimer’s. He said the woman told him that the structure of coming in every morning, the socialization and the exercise has helped that member improve.
“That’s a direct credit to what the recreation center has done for people,” Poulos said. “That’s why we get up in the morning. That’s why we go to work to make people happy.”
Poulos told the board that the programming at the recreation center has been going well and that private swim lessons have been very popular. The number of swimmers in the lap pool has increased due to the Broyhill Wellness Center changing operations, but Poulos said there are not a lot of times when people can get a lap lane to themselves.
Poulos said people have reached out about opening earlier and adding more times for lap swimmers.
“We’ve only been open for three months and we’re still changing schedules and learning lessons every day,” Poulos said. “We’re going to continue to evolve.”
Chairman John Welch said it’s really going to take a good year to really work out how the community recreation center will operate just to make sure it is meeting the changing needs of the community during different seasons.
“I appreciate the fact that you guys are so open minded about that,” Welch said.
The recreation center is currently looking for more lifeguards and Poulos said finding staff, like a lot of other area businesses, has been difficult, which is also why Poulos does not want to change the current hours of operation.
Poulos also mentioned that he is meeting with Wellness Center staff and Appalachian Regional Healthcare system staff in the next month. He said the meeting will be to figure out what the Wellness Center had provided that the recreation center now can provide and also what the Wellness Center could provide that the recreation center can’t.
“We’re going to have a meeting here at the end of the month to discuss those issues again to try to figure out how we work together to complement each other and again fill the needs of the community,” Poulos said.
After Poulos provided the update, he also asked the board for permission to surplus its youth football helmets and shoulder pads to Equip Ministries and Mt. Vernon Church since the parks and recreation department no longer offers contact football. The board approved the request with the condition Equip Ministries signs an agreement that it will accept the equipment as is and understands that they should have the helmets reconditioned and certified before use.
The board also unanimously approved the purchase of eight new Dodge Durango SUV AWD for $30,702 per vehicle for the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office as well as the approval to update each with emergency equipment for about $4,400 each.
“I think it’s great,” said Vice Chairman Billy Kennedy. “When I started here, we weren’t getting eight police cars a year. We’ve really been able to budget and take care of our police transportation and that’s something that’s a good accomplishment we should be proud of.”
The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office also requested the board approve the contract between Appalachian Regional Healthcare System for the provision of meals to the inmates at the Watauga County Detention Center, which has been long standing, but the amounts had been modified slightly from previous years. The contract was approved unanimously.
The board also approved a contract for new Axon body cameras, which will upgrade the current Axon body 2’s to the Axon body 3’s. According to WCSO, the contract — which is for five years with the first year at $30,824.99 — includes more storage space for videos and additional licenses. The total five-year contract is $147,524.25
WCSO also asked the board for permission to apply for a grant from the North Carolina Crime Commission for 12 new Kustom Eagle 2 speed radars, which requires no match from the county. The board granted the request.
Additionally, WCSO requested the board declare K-9 deputy Moses as “surplus” so that he could be sold to the deputy he has worked with during his career. The sheriff’s office said that Moses is almost 9 years old and has begun to experience physical issues associated with his age, and his hearing isn’t what it should be.
Under county maintenance, the board also approved a bid for two new trucks for the maintenance department as well as a change order with Muter Construction for additional Design-Build services to the human services and law enforcement center roofs and HVAC replacements, and a storage building for parks and recreation. The board also approved bids for three new pavilions for $176,362.75 and 16 new aluminum picnic tables for $11,554.98.
The next meeting of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for Aug. 3.