Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to spend up to $40,000 to install new controls on the center’s dehumidification units to reduce noise from the machinery that has led to repeated complaints from nearby residents.
The board also approved seeking bids to plant about 90 Leyland cypress trees behind the center to eventually act as a barrier for sound and lighting, a step which is expected to cost about $40,000.
Both steps were the result of persistent complaints of nearby residents who have said their lives were disrupted by the aquatic center since it opened its doors in May 2013.
Bill Echols, Cherokee’s capital projects manager, told the board the outdoor lights at the Cherokee County Aquatic Center had also recently been lowered, and residents reported improvement.
“The most immediately affected residents, it was enough of a positive so the glare wasn’t affecting them,” he said of the residents who have previously reported the lights had been a huge disturbance to their lives.
But, Echols said, another issue arose when officials realized the level of the lights wasn’t bright enough to meet local code standards. County Manager Jerry Cooper said the county is working to have the rules adjusted so that the lights can stay low enough to satisfy the residents.
Commissioner Brian Poole, who represents the area where the aquatic center is located, has been meeting with residents in recent months to try to find solutions to their complaints. He said in the meeting Tuesday he was pleased to see more effort by the county.
“We got to a point where we have been making some progress,” he said. “We’re trying to get these people back to some kind of way of life they’re used to … I don’t know they’ll ever get there, but we’re making some small steps.”
Commissioner Harry Johnston said Tuesday night’s move to plant trees and work on the noise was “by far the biggest thing we’ve done so far” to address the complaints.
“Maybe this will be all of it. If it’s not, we’ll deal with it,” he said.
Nearby resident James Harold addressed the board Tuesday and said he and his neighbors in the Falls of Cherokee subdivision wanted to thank the county for its efforts.
“We have had many, many situations, but … I’m here to tell you, I appreciate what you’re doing,” said Harold, whose neighborhood has been the source of most of the complaints.
Also during the meeting Tuesday, the board:
• Voted unanimously to accept a Homeland Security grant for $12,000 for an emergency supply trailer to be stationed in the Lake Arrowhead area to help in weather-related events in the secluded area;
• Unanimously approved an annual contract for guardrail installation and repair services as needed around the county with Martin-Robbins Fence Co. in an amount not to exceed $50,000 for a year;
• Unanimously approved a sidewalk trip hazard removal service agreement with MRC Group to perform work as needed around the county. The county has budgeted $50,000;
• Voted unanimously to approve a professional services consulting contract for updating the county’s comprehensive transportation plan to Parsons Brinkerhoff in the amount of $378,674; and
• Voted unanimously to approve submitting an application to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for grant funds to continue working to establish a mental health court in Cherokee County. The grant application amount is $113,625 with a local match of $12,625, which officials said could be covered with fees.