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Wilmington City Council looks to change park bond money

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Wilmington City Council has justified spending money on parks and other projects with the 2006 voter-approved Parks and Rec Bond. At its meeting tonight, though, the council wants to change how $700,000 of that bond money will be spent.

The bond included the $700,000 for a regional natatorium in wilmington.

"I've sat many hours watching my kids swim or get ready to swim, and it's a great sport," Wilmington City Councilwoman Laura Padgett said. "It builds healthy kids, and we should support it in this area. We don't have anything that does that right now."

Padgett said although she believes there is a large need for a swimming complex in Wilmington, the timing is not right.

"I think it doesn't make sense to leave the money sitting, because at this point we don't have near term private funding," she said.

Padgett said the money for the natatorium in the parks bond was just to start the design process on the multi-million-dollar facility. Now, though, she hopes council will vote to move the $700,000 to fund the completion of the Cross City Trail that wraps around the port city. Mayor Bill Saffo agrees.

"Since we're so close to the completion of this, we almost have it 95 percent complete, it would be a shame to leave parts of this trail just stopped, forcing people to go out on the main road," Saffo said.

Mayor Saffo said there is not much left to do in order to complete the trail, and he hopes it is done soon.

"You would have a trail that literally took you from literally Wrightsville Beach to Wade Park," he said. "I think it's a great opportunity to finish something that we've started and get it done."

Brian Benfer from the Waves of Wilmington swim team said he wishes the council would reconsider. He thinks the amount of revenue that a swimming facility would generate would let the complex pay for itself.

Mayor Saffo said although he does not see a natatorium in the near future for Wilmington, he hopes that the city will eventually move in that direction.

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