The Conway Parks and Recreation Department has been holding "town hall" meetings to gather public input on a revised parks master plan, and a municipal swimming pool and more tennis courts are on a lot of residents’ wish lists.

Parks Director Steve Ibbotson said on Thursday that Conway is the largest city in Arkansas without a municipal pool, and that he’s been asked by Mayor Tab Townsell to find some "benchmark" pools in the state that Conway might use as a model.

Ibbotson said he’s visited at Clarksville’s new Aquatic Center, which has both indoor and outdoor pools, and that this model could work well in Conway.

There is no timetable set for a municipal pool, and no location has been identified, but it’s clear that the city would need reason to believe that swim meet competitions, "learn-to-swim" programs and other events would raise enough money, combined with possible fees for recreational swimmers, to cover the cost of operating the pool, Ibbotson said.

One of the city’s funding sources for parks is a voter-approved $14.5 million Parks Improvement Bond Issue used to build the city’s baseball and softball complexes. Another is about 7/8ths of the Conway Advertisement and Promotion Commission’s Prepared Food tax, sometimes called the "hamburger tax."

A five-year loan used for one major parks project, the relocation of the Faulkner County Fairgrounds, will be paid off in August, 2014, freeing up about $800,000 per year that could be committed to a new project like a municipal pool, city CFO Tyler Winningham said on Thursday. This money is dedicated to parks and cannot legally be used for any other purpose.

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