Tue, May 22, 2018 10:08 PM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
Tourism will finance Paintsville 'Sprayground'
Water park at pool could be open this summer
PAINTSVILLE — The Paintsville Tourism Commission is conspiring with Mayor Doug Pugh to put a damper on summer fun.

Actually, the plan is to make summer fun damper, through the construction of a "Sprayground" at Paintsville's municipal swimming pool.

Tourism commissioners agreed Wednesday to devote $20,000 from agency funds over the next two years to finance the imaginative water park project, which could be soaking area youngsters before summer 2003 is finished.

Though use of tourism commission funds is generally restricted to projects that are designed specifically to draw visitors to Paintsville, the city agency can spend $10,000 per year to finance city recreation projects.

Pugh gave a brief demonstration of the "Sprayground" project during the tourism commission's regular monthly meeting Wednesday, and he got unanimous support from the panel for his request for financial support.

The project itself is a fairly novel concept that the mayor said would create "lots of excitement" at the pool.

The plan consists of a 25' by 50' concrete slab that will be filled with water spraying, squirting and dumping devices. The parks are becoming very popular with pool-goers around the country, and the facility design is such that the spraying, squirting and dumping devices can be moved around or changed frequently to keep the park "new and fun," Pugh said.

The mayor said the facility could be constructed within the city pool's existing boundaries, near the wading pool and concession area, and he added that the existing filtering system could also be utilized to cut down on construction costs.

The city is also planning to install a water slide at the pool, and Pugh said the two new projects should "really boost admissions" at the facility.

"The city swimming pool was once the place to be during summers in Paintsville," Pugh said. "These projects will create a lot of excitement and a lot of interest, plus they'll take a lot of the boredom out of summer for our kids. We think they'll make the pool the place to be, again."

In other business Wednesday, the city's tourism commission authorized executive director Jim Williams to employ part-time help for the summer "tour season."

Paintsville has become a regular stop, Williams said, for bus tour operators, and the tourism agency usually provides a guide for the stops at Johnson County attractions — like Loretta Lynn's Butcher Hollow homeplace, Jenny Wiley's grave, and the Mountain HomePlace at Paintsville Lake.

Williams said the frequency of those tours has been increasing, and the agency needed another guide to assist with bus groups and to help man the new tourism welcome center on Saturdays. The tourism commission agreed to fund the part-time job, but stipulated that the tour guide should be someone familiar with the county's history and with the backgrounds of the various attractions.

The commission also agreed Wednesday to seek design and construction proposals for a stage at the new HomePlace amphitheater, which is scheduled to host a sizable Bluegrass festival in August. The agency will settle for a temporary stage, if necessary, for the August event, but will construct a permanent facility if time allows.

The HomePlace amphitheater project is being financed with a grant from Johnson County coal severance tax funds, and it was partially completed last summer.

The commission also got a brief update Wednesday from Pugh on the progress of a Country Music Highway museum and theater to be built with federal financing on the agency's welcome center site.

Commission chairman Ray Tosti asked the mayor to clarify the tourism agency's role in the project, and Pugh said the museum and theater would be operated and managed by the tourism agency...after it is built. City council will call all the shots during the planning and construction phases, Pugh added.

Tourism commissioners have expressed concern and dissatisfaction with their exclusion from the planning and design processes, suggesting they should be more involved in those areas if the tourism agency is going to be responsible for operating the facility.

"If our funds are going to be used to operate the museum," Tosti said, "we should at least have some say in the design and development. The problems we've had in the past with the tourism board's lack of management authority at the Mountain HomePlace should not be repeated with the museum project," he added.

Pugh has assured the commission it would be more involved with the museum development, but city council has apparently assumed control of the design process, directing architectural revisions and offering their design preferences with little input from tourism.

"We haven't even been advised of what the museum's concept will be," tourism commissioner Scott Perry said. "I guess we'll know when they open the doors."

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