Liberty Pool

Mansfield residents will be asked on the May 3 primary ballot to support a quarter-percent income tax increase for the parks and recreation department. The funds would pay for a new pool/aquatics center at Liberty Park, to replace the aging pool (above) that was closed in 2021. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- A quarter-percent income tax issue increase for capital improvements for the City of Mansfield's parks and recreation department will lead to a new $8 million pool and aquatics center.

But it's more than that, according to Mark Abrams, the parks and rec superintendent.

The future of the city's "master plan" for parks, approved by City Council in 2020, also hinges on the May 3 primary election ballot.

The four-year tax would generate about $3.7 million annually (about $15 million over four years) and would cost someone earning $32,000 a year between $36.50 and $43.80 in additional income tax annually.

Collection of the tax would begin in January 2023.

With a department that survives only on about $850,000 annually from the city's existing PRIDE tax, Abrams said rejection of the income tax issue would likely put the brakes on most of the projects planned in the $29 million master plan.

"It would be impossible to do any kind of major projects," said Abrams, who has led the department since it came to life again in 2014 after the city emerged from fiscal emergency. It had been shuttered in 2010.

"Besides the pool, a lot of the stuff that we're looking at doing is to enhance security and improve movement through the parks. Like for instance, better lighting, possible security cameras, some resurfacing of parking lots and just making things more secure.

"We want people to be able to get out and do stuff and just hopefully deter some of the vandalism," he said.

Abrams said city voters need to approve the levy if they want a new public pool, as well as other improvements identified in the master plan.

About two thirds of that PRIDE money for parks is used for mowing and maintenance. Abrams said the department has been able to replace most of the playground in city parks over the last eight years with PRIDE funds.

"We have been able to kind of hit the low hanging fruit. Hopefully, we'll be able to go to bigger ticket items other than playgrounds and and start doing some stuff on the master plan and start making things look more, more cohesive and more put together," he said.

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Collection of the money would start in January 2023 and the funds would be used exclusively for capital improvements in the city's parks and recreation department.

It will not be used to pay parks employees or other items, Abrams said.

The new aquatics facility at Liberty Park would replace the city's only municipal pool, which closed for good in 2021 after years of increased maintenance issues. It had opened in 1938.

If the issue is approved, Abrams said it would take about two years to design and build the new pool/aquatics facility, which would take about seven of the park's 25 acres.

Abrams aid the proposed new facility would be a significant improvement over the old pool.

"It would be all ADA compliant ... zero entry. There would be some water features, like a slide or a climbing wall, something along those lines. Swimming lanes. Lap lanes. Things like that," he said.

Liberty Park

Above is a drawing of an improved Liberty Park in Mansfield, showing a proposed pool/aquatics center on the north side of the park. (City of Mansfield master parks plan)

A new community pool was one of the planned improvements identified in the 2019 Mansfield Rising plan.

"The need for a community pool is important as a gathering space, to promote a sense of community and improve the health and well-being of local citizens. Aside from this, community pools are an essential piece of a city to engage in recreational activities," those involved with the Mansfield Rising plan said.

The four-year levy would fund about half of the master plan for parks. Abrams said if the parks department proves itself to be good stewards of the funds, he hopes the next city administration would consider seeking a renewal to complete the plan.

"I kind of look at it in a unique way with this money. You'll be able to go out and touch the $15 million. You'll be able to take your family and use that equipment, that pool, the security lights, walking paths, etc.

"You'll be able to go out and and see where that money was spent and hopefully be able to use it," Abrams said.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"