BARBOURVILLE — The future of the Barbourville Water Park is still uncertain, as the Barbourville City Council members voted to have the city’s mayor reapproach Union College in regards to a land swap. The city and college have shared a lease agreement for the park for more than 25 years.
Last year, the water park was closed as city officials looked for funding needed to perform repairs and renovations on the park’s old and aging equipment.
At that time, Barbourville Mayor David Thompson said the college had granted the city a five-year lease with a five-year extension. This was to help the city procure sufficient funding needed for repairs, as funding can be more difficult to obtain on a year-to-year lease.
However, the deal between the college and city had been nulled and voided by the college. Since then, several attempts and different tactics have taken place on behalf of the city.
Most recently, the city had approached the college in regards to a land swap.
“We come up with a property trade which we did a few council meetings ago to swap the softball fields, which Barbourville High uses for a baseball field, concessions, and the general store for the property where the campgrounds are,” Thompson explained.
Thompson then read aloud the college’s response to the city’s offer.
“[The] recommendation to the board is to decline the proposal as presented,” read Thompson. “Further discussion by the committee suggests that there would be interest in a land swap if the land involved was of more immediate use and benefit to the college.”
Union College’s letter did list two possibilities. The first was for the city to consider reclamation of the pond found on the college’s property adjacent to Allison Avenue.
Thompson said in order to do so, a water pumping station would need to be installed. The city had planned to install a system a few years ago, but ended up using the money to build the Stivers Center instead.
However, Thompson said the college’s president approached him around six months ago asking for the city to place a water pump.
“Regardless of what we do with the parks, we’ll still work on that project just because that’s what we do,” said Thompson. “But that’s one option they want us to do in trade. I don’t think we could do that because we’re going to work on that anyway.”
Thompson said it may take a few cycles for the city to obtain enough money for the pumping station.
The other option suggested by Union College’s letter would involve the city trading over property on Judge Street, which is where the city’s low-income housing currently is.
Thompson said that wasn’t a possibility due to legislation passed in either 1984 or 1985 which prohibits that property to be used for anything other than housing.
“We’re not going to take these people’s housing,” interjected Councilman Ronnie Moore.
According to Thompson, the city has carried insurance on the property it is requesting in the land swap.
Thompson also said that last year the city had installed a new shelter, renovated the concession stand, changed screens on the baseball fields, replaced the metal roofing over the dugouts, and other small repairs and renovations for a total of $18,700.
“I don’t know what they want, I really don’t,” said Moore. “It’s been 25 years keeping that ballfield — and that’s not open just to the city, but to the whole county. We don’t put ‘city kids only.’ We’ve got the Easter egg hunt, the ball drop, car shows, this is for the whole county, and even people from other counties.
"They want to take everything we’ve got, I don’t understand their logic,” he continued. “So, I’m going to make the motion to ask the mayor to go back one more time and ask them if we can have just from the convenient store, the concession stand and the ballfields.”
Moore’s motion passed unanimously.