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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – Back in 2006, Wilmington voters went to the polls and approved a $35.5 million recreation bond, $700,000 of which was designed to go towards building a natatorium.

The entire project was project to cost anywhere from $10 to $20 million, plus thousands more for maintenance. The city expected private donors and community organizations to join the effort, but that never materialized. Now, five years later, the plan to build a natatorium is essentially a dead issue.

But, because of the broad language in the bond order, Wilmington City Council, led by Mayor Bill Saffo, voted Tuesday night to spend the $700,000 now on finishing the cross-city trail, even though voters approved it for a pool.

Here what the bond order said:
“The Board of Commissioners of the County of New Hanover has ascertained and hereby determines that it is necessary to provide parks and recreation facilities, including the acquisition and development of land, the construction and development of athletic fields, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and recreation centers, and the provision of related library, museum and beach improvements and including the acquisition and installation of machinery and equipment therefor, and to pay capital costs of such improvements.

Mayor Saffo say helping complete the cross-city trail fits that bill.

Wilmington City Council member Kevin O’Grady agrees with Saffo.

“This project can’t work if there’s no private money,” said O’Grady. “Just like many other projects we sort of alluded to tonight that make the city a better place to live a natatorium will make it a better place to live. It may attract businesses, but it can’t be done just with tax money. It’s got to be done with private participation.”

The bond does not specifically say anything about “trails” in it’s text so WWAY asked Wilmington City Attorney Carolyn Johnson to explain how the Wilmington City Council can legally decide to use the money for the cross-city trail. Johnson declined to answer any questions we had for her and told us “she was too tired” to talk specifics about the bond.

We then went to Saffo to ask him to decifer what category the trail falls in for the bond. He said Johnson was the only one that could answer our legal questions about the specifics of the bond text.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest


  • Guest-of-the-day

    I agree with Laura Padgett: In these times we need some free recreation… not to mention an alternate way to get around that is also free. Gasoline, car insurance, repair fees, etc. Who needs it, just ride your bike to work!

  • Guest

    The point being WE voted for one thing and they used it for another! There are probably a LOT of things that need this money more than a trail. Maybe this is what’s wrong with US. We don’t think before we act. The fact of the story was they used the money for something else. . not what it was intended for. That’s like voting for Obama and McCain being sworn in. We the voters need to be smarter in what we do and say.

  • Guest

    cause all of us live and work right along the pathway. Maybe they should take some of that money and make it possible to cross the intersections along the pathway without being killed.

  • Guest

    can’t believe that anyone would vote to have a public bathtub built, let alone visit it and jump in. What a wise decision I made to get the heck out of the city limits a few years ago.

  • Guest2334342342234

    Good. It needs to be completed. Money better spent I say.

  • Concerned Citizen & Taxpayer

    Once again our ELECTED officials do not care what the taxpayer voted for it’s all about what they want. They ram it down your throat whether you want it or not because they think they know what’s best for you better than yourself. Let’s vote these incompetents out of office!!!!

  • Guest

    Did you vote for the Bond? Do you really want the city to build another pool with the money they’ve already borrowed? We as taxpayers are already paying that money back — it should be used for something we want.

  • Guest7969

    and you DOLTS keep voting these IDIOTS IN….”I’m TOO TIRED TO ANSWER..”…really…maybe WE are too tired to pay your salary…!!! You don’t work for yourself…you work for the citizens of WILMINGTON…every single one of them. JERK! Wow…would have been nice to actually SAVE the taxpayers 700,000 dollars since the thing it was voted in for isn’t going to happen…WHEN are the taxpayers going to learn that it’s just best to vote NO on ANY BOND…we the taxpayers always end up getting SCREWED!

  • Guest6300

    I love it! Being as I live in a community with a pool, outside the city limits, I never would have used the city pool. But the cross city trail, well I already use that all the time! Thank you city tax payers!

  • Guest22

    They included the trail as part of parks, fields, etc. What good are all of the parks, fields, trails, facilities and so on if they are never open and available to the citizens who have paid for them already? Take a look specifically at the Emerald Lake Park and the fields on Murrayville road. Still under construction, understandable. Otherwise, open the gate and quit reserving the newest and best for invitation only out-of-towners!

  • Guestjj

    To me the pool is a waste of Tax money. There is one close to where I live. It closes at 5:00 and I don’t get off till 5:00. So most tax payers never get to use it.

  • Guest

    Do you work 7 days a week?

  • Guest

    or voting for Gore and Bush being sworn in??

  • GuestTaxpayer

    No – we voted for the PARKS BOND. There were many projects that could be included in the bond. What voters approved was for the city and county to take out a loan to be used for parks projects. They are doing that. There is really not a big deal here. The money has already been borrowed and we taxpayers are already paying back that loan. It’s supposed to be used for parks projects. One of the projects can’t be built. I would rather it go to finishing up a nice FREE thing that can be enjoyed by anyone.

  • Phillyguy

    We all once in a while could turn off the TV, get off the couch, enjoy the trail and loose a few pounds!


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