What about that downtown aquatic center?

Published 9:23 pm Monday, October 2, 2017

Suffolk continues to experience challenges in terms of being a “city” from a governmental and business point of view.

Suffolk, with 429 square miles, has the largest land area of cities in Virginia and is 14th in the nation. But most government buildings and activities are located in the downtown area. Many residents living outside of downtown express the view that we pay taxes, but all the money is spent downtown, and no one in government cares about the people in the other areas.

Only a few years ago a new city police station opened in the North Suffolk area. But there are two police stations in downtown. They are located less than a mile apart on Washington Street. What were they thinking?

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If a corporation were researching the downtown area as a prospective place to open a business, what conclusion would they draw from seeing two police stations within one square mile?

Recently the city has been studying construction of a staffed, indoor aquatic center to be operated by the city recreation department. It would include a swimming pool, locker rooms, lobby, concession area, a first aid station, lifeguards and other staffing.

Suffolk makes good use of some schools by co-locating recreational activities inside them, but the city has only two free-standing, indoor, staffed recreation centers. One is located downtown in the East Washington area and one is in Whaleyville. (Whaleyville?!)

In terms of aquatic centers, Suffolk already has a staffed, outdoor municipal swimming pool. It is located downtown, less than a mile from the East Washington Recreation Center.

City officials have indicated they have not yet chosen between a downtown and a North Suffolk location for the new facility, but how likely is it that it will be in north Suffolk or any other part of the city? Considering past patterns, there is no chance at all.

If a referendum were held today on either staying in the “city” or recreating Nansemond County, it is likely the vote would go for the county.

The goal of Suffolk’s governing officials must be to create a cohesive city in which citizens no longer wish to return to the old divisions.

But to achieve such a goal will take a lot of effort and more smarts than have been indicated in the past.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.