County does cannonball in BH pool
Today’s blog is brought to you by the community of Beverly Hills, which can’t get no lovin’.
Last week’s commission email is randomly from Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach, whose district includes Beverly Hills.
Once the political heartbeat of Citrus County, Beverly Hills no longer holds that influence. A community that thrived on activism now has but a handful of citizens interested in the goings on of county government.
That shift in community awareness has its political consequences. Beverly Hills used to pack the commission chambers. I can’t remember the last time that happened.
To commissioners like Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr., lack of citizen interest suggests apathy, so why spend money on a community that doesn’t care?
I get his point — to a point. Just because people don’t attend county commission meetings for their three minutes at the microphone, that doesn’t mean they’re indifferent. It means they have real lives and count on elected leaders to give a you-know-what about them.
And nothing reflects that breakdown more than the Beverly Hills pool.
Actually, it’s inaccurate to call it the Beverly Hills pool because it does not, under close inspection, contain any actual water. It is a fenced-in hole in the ground and as attractive as described.
This is one of those things that made some sense at the start, but now it’s just a head scratcher.
The county never meant to own the pool. That happened when the Beverly Hills Recreation Association, which owned the park, pool and community center, became insolvent.
Under an agreement between the two, the group's inability to pay the bills triggered transfer of ownership to the county. (I'd like to have been in the room when that idea was first hatched.) And thus was born Central Ridge Community Park.
Few years back the county concluded the pool was a money pit. Drop in usage combined with repairs led to the decision in February 2019 to drain the pool and close it.
Let’s stop right there.
It’s nature of the beast for commissioners to make decisions people don’t like. But what’s really annoying is a county commission that can’t make up its mind. Closing the pool was easy. Doing that without a plan to occupy the former pool space was poor planning. Leaving it empty since then is inexcusable, frankly.
Everyone wants Beverly Hills to solve this problem but it’s not Beverly Hills’ problem to solve. The county commission alone owns this headache. It’s a PUBLIC asset. That’s the kind of asset the county commission oversees.
I know Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach has pushed for a solution — pool, pickleball courts, fountain, anything but a fenced-in empty hole. The other commissioners seem disinterested.
A longtime Beverly Hills resident wrote a compelling email to Schlabach asking once again to consider the pool:
“For so many reasons, accomplishing this would bring back life to the community and encourage good neighbor relationships, as this community was founded on.”
The response was not encouraging.
County Administrator Randy Oliver to Schlabach:
“The pool is poorly designed and not worth rebuilding. It is also relatively close to the County’s major pool. The pool could be turned back over to the HOA and operated as intended as a neighborhood pool like Terra Vista.”
So it's a thumbs down from the administrator.
Schlabach, in her response to the citizen, was even less optimistic.
“As much as I would like to see a proper BH Community Pool, I am but one vote out of five. I have been told in previous meetings that they will not support the pool repairs or staffing required,” she wrote.
“I plan on bringing this issue up with a new board in November… Hopefully the election will bring two new like minded commissioners.”
(I’m not throwing Schlabach under the bus; she helped get $850,000 in the state budget for a Beverly Hills park master plan that will likely include the former pool. Doesn’t excuse a county commission sitting on its hands while public property is left to rot.)
Am I missing something? Why can’t the board just make a call and be done with it?
So there you have it, Beverly Hills. Three years-plus for your hole in the ground. I’m sure pride doesn’t cover it.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.