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By JOSH BOAK and EMILY SWANSON
The decision to fund the aquatic center in Paducah is just a few short weeks away. The players are still the same. The pandemic is still ongoing. Businesses are still struggling to make ends meet. Storms rage on and continue to flood parts of the city. In just 22 days or less (depending on when the article is read), Paducah city leaders will hold a meeting to discuss the options on the table for the future of Paducah’s Indoor Recreation and Aquatic Center.
On May 1, plans were halted for 88 days in order to gain clarity on the projects' next phase. It was reported that there would be six options available to the commission regarding decisions made on the future fate of the aquatic center.
Now, City Manager Jim Arndt said there are three options the city commission has available to determine the destiny of the project.
The first is to continue with the project and the design phase. The second is to pause the project again and wait on the ‘new’ commission to make the decision. The final option is to terminate the contract with the design company Lose and let the ‘new’ commission decide how to proceed with the $20 million in bonds issued for the aquatic center next year.
The two mayoral candidates moving forward in the general election for Mayor of Paducah are businessman George Bray and City Commissioner Richard Abraham. Both candidates would like to see the project halted and the allotted bonds be used for other projects.
Just as the dust settles amid the June 23 primary election, the city begins to look ahead at both Bray and Abraham searching for leadership that will catapult the city of Paducah into a favorable 2021. Mayor Brandi Harless lost her bid to continue as two of three candidates advancing to the general election.
Bray is a businessman with strong roots in Paducah. His family owned the former L.S. Dubois pharmaceutical distribution center that was located in downtown Paducah. He has strong convictions concerning both city and county governments need to work together to reach common goals. Bray previously stated that in order for Paducah to grow, both governments need to be 'on the same page'.
The aquatic center isn’t a project Bray supports. He said there should be more transparency from city officials to its constituents. Bray said he believes that the community wasn’t privy to many of the decisions made regarding the aquatic center. He thought maybe the community wasn’t paying close enough attention, however, if the city is going to spend that kind of money, city officials should make sure the community is informed.
City Commissioner Richard Abraham has made his voice known on how he feels about the aquatic center. Though Abraham originally voted in favor of the aquatic center, he had a change of heart this past January. He has been a strong supporter of fixing the infrastructure on the southside of town and believes the $20 million dollars slated for the aquatic center would be put to better use on infrastructure improvement projects.
Much of the way Abraham views his leadership style is based on his years as a local athlete. He has said that working together as a team is vital and that everyone on the team has a job to do and it’s important to do that job.
In high school, Abraham was a football All-American at Paducah Tilghman. In addition to his work on the commission, Abraham is a personal trainer.
Regardless as to which candidate is elected Mayor of Paducah, both believe that the aquatic center should be squashed.