About two years earlier, the county built its own community center in West Augustine; the Solomon Calhoun Center, with every new feature you could imagine for a multipurpose facility of its size. Soon after, the county determined that the cost to repair and maintain the Lincolnville facility exceeded their abilities to pay, so the Willie Galimore Center began its rapid decline.
The city cried “foul”, meetings ensued, attorneys polished their shoes, sabers were rattled — nevertheless, the Interlocal agreement between the city and county required payments for the services contracted, which had been paid, and there was still another year remaining on the term. The Lincolnville residents rose up in arms against the county’s unwillingness to accept responsibility.
The conditions at the Willie Galimore Center were deplorable, unsanitary, a public nuisance and a safety hazard. The Florida Department of Health posted signs at the pool — warning of the conditions and ordering that the property could no longer be used by the public. They found sharp, chipped tile along the pool deck, biological hazards, unhealthy algae buildup in the water, a virtual mosquito breeding ground because no water was being circulated through the filtration system, and a sufficient number of health and safety violations to order the entire facility closed. The county staff, and county commission, at the time, was not moved.
In a final affront, County Commission Chairman, KEN BRYAN, now a candidate for Mayor of the City of St Augustine, appeared before the City Commission in a regular meeting. From the speaker’s podium, Bryan told the commission, in so many words, that they would get no help from the county and to make other arrangements. Then City Commissioner, Errol Jones, was incensed at the arrogance shown by the chairman during his remarks to Board over a problem clearly created by the neglect of the county he was there to represent.
Sharp words were exchanged between Jones and Bryan over the issue of the contract. Bryan finally said, “Contracts have escape clauses”. “So, you’re telling me contracts are made to be broken?” Jones asked. Bryan nodded, and Jones told the audience that he would spend his remaining time on the Board seeing to it that the Galimore Center was brought back online. And, he did.
The City of St Augustine was ready to reopen the pool in time for the summer of 2013. Since the City does not have a recreation department, they contracted with First Coast YMCA to operate the swim facility. However, for some families who wanted to bring their children to play, the pool fees required were an obstacle. The Jacksonville Jaguars organization came forward with a $15,000 donation to cover the cost of admission for the pool throughout the 2013 summer swimming season. Based on the success and community interest, the pool proposed to extend its summer hours, and, again, the Jaguars paid $5,000 to cover the additional staff needed to manage the schedule.
According to Jim Piggott, Director of General Services for the City of St Augustine, these payments were made directly by the Jaguars to the City, and were not given as part of the 450th Alliance, of which they are “Alliance Partners”. Again, for 2014, the Jaguars gave $15,000, for admission — but not for the extended hours of operation. Piggott says the City picked up the extra cost out of the general budget.
In an effort to accommodate the Lincolnville Market operating in the adjacent field, the Jaguars did make an additional $5,000 donation — not for the pool, but to cover the cost of wiring needed to provide electricity for vendors participating in those events. Piggott says the cost ended up being just over $6,000 and again, the city picked up the shortage. The Lincolnville Market since folded and the property is not being used.
Shaver says that she has heard the Jaguars given credit for free swimming lessons offered to more than 70 kids in 2013, and more than 100 more in 2014, and the City of St Augustine take credit for the lessons. Shaver is also a candidate for Mayor of St Augustine and says that she looks forward to continuing the sponsorship of the swimming lessons; however, she said, it bothers her that others have not set the record straight about where the money came from. Then, when one city official described the free pool and swimming lessons as a 450th Commemoration project, she said “enough” and came forward about her gifts.
The First Coast YMCA presented Shaver with a video, certificate and posted a banner attesting to her generous gift in both 2013 and 2014. YMCA Director Scott Scharski was joined in the presentation by Pools Director Tia Coffman-Craig.
Photo credits: © 2014 Historic City News staff photographer