County approves $25,000 for Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club

The School Board votes on what to do with the club facility at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 2.

Members swim laps at the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club. (File photo)
Members swim laps at the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club. (File photo)
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Just a day before the Flagler School Board is to vote on whether to close the money-losing Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club to the public, another government body has come to the rescue.

The Flagler County Commission voted unanimously Feb. 1 to provide $25,000 to help keep the pool open.

But their decision wasn't without caveats, as commissioners Frank Meeker and Nate McLaughlin expressed concern about subsidizing a facility that serves a small part of the county's population. 

"I have people say to me, 'Why do I have to subsidize somebody’s hobby?'" McLaughlin said. "We do need it to sustain itself."

Meeker said he'd have trouble supporting any future requests for money if the club's membership drops too low. "If I see membership start to decline back to about 200, it’s going to be very difficult for me to support it," he said. 

CarMichael McMillan, an organizer with the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club Advisory Committee, a group of club supporters seeking to keep the facility open, said the group understands it needs to maintain the club's membership.

"We understand that we need to get the membership up, and that’s certainly a big thing for me," McMillan said. "We don’t want to be in this position again, I promise you that."

Flagler Schools Superintendent Jacob Oliva spoke to the commission, saying the district has struggled to keep community facilities like the club open in the face of state budget cuts.

The money from the county, he said, would be enough for the district to keep the facility open under its current hours.


The Flagler School Board, which has talked about closing the club because it has repeatedly lost money, votes on what to do with the property at its 6 p.m. Feb. 2 meeting.

That was the deadline for the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club Advisory Committee to raise enough money to keep the facility open.

They sought about $80,000 through a combination of memberships and donations, McMillan said, and have raised that.

The committee had hoped for about 400 members and has gotten about 300, he said, but the county's donation makes up for the shortfall. 

The committee also got official approval last week for a 501c3 nonprofit designation, committee president Doug Courtney told the commission, and that may allow it to seek grants.


Palm Coast resident Jack Carall chided the commission for thinking of "donating $25,000 to a social club," which he said is largely used by seniors, and suggested the commission delay its vote to a later meeting.

After commissioners compared the money for the club to money the county spends on parks, Carall objected, saying, "These things are free. ... If I want to go to Holland Park, all I do is walk in. But if I want to go into the pool, I've got to pay. … I don't think that pool will ever, ever be self sustaining."

Two men who've used the club, which has a gym and tennis courts as well as a pool, told the commission that it's more than a social club, and that it helps elderly residents maintain their health.

County Commissioner Barbara Revels told Carall his point about parks was "very well taken," but that she relates the club to the kind of "active parks" that require more money to maintain than traditional "passive parks," and sometimes rely partially on user fees.

County Commissioner George Hanns noted that the county doesn't have many facilities for seniors, and that the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club is serving that purpose. He congratulated the citizen group, the Advisory Committee, for its efforts.

"It's inspirational to see a group of people that get together and try to make Flagler County even better than what we already have to offer," Hanns said. "This is something that’s for the seniors, and it’s not much that we do for the seniors. … I believe that it’s our responsibility to provide as much recreation as possible."



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