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Residents give cold shoulder in pool vote

While state election workers were counting ballots in last week's primary, people in this subdivision were tallying their own votes on an issue much closer to home: swimming pools.

Meadow Pointe held a mail-in election to ask residents if they wanted to pay to keep their community pools a balmy 80-plus degrees in the winter. The overwhelming majority said thanks, but no thanks.

The vote was among the first of its kind in the area and made Meadow Pointe one of the few gated subdivisions without a heated place to do the backstroke.

A total of 100 people voted against heating the pools at the clubhouse off County Line Road in Pasco County. Thirty-two people voted in favor of warming just the large lap pool, while 26 supported heating the smaller free-form pool.

Election organizers mailed out 1,458 ballots as part of its monthly newsletter for August. Residents had until the end of the month to drop them in a sealed ballot box in the clubhouse.

Meadow Pointe leaders counted the votes Sept. 5 and announced the results at the subdivision's Community Development District meeting later that day and at the community council's meeting this week.

Less than 11 percent were returned.

"It was very disappointing, but I think if you look at the (primary) election that was held Tuesday, we're probably not running any worse," said Joan Abrams, a member of the Meadow Pointe Community Council.

Turnout for the swimming pool election was about the same as for the primary among residents of Meadow Pointe. Voter participation across the region was slim because of a general disinterest in the races and heavy rains.

Meadow Pointe leaders said many residents simply didn't care about the issues.

"We've tried to years to get people involved but the sad thing is that people don't take the time," said Patty Asklar, a member of the subdivision's community council.

Installing heaters in both pools would have cost about $40,900, plus $7,500 to $8,500 a year in upkeep and energy costs.

The money already was included in the annual budget, but will be held over for next year's expenses. The average resident who pays about $315 a year in maintenance fees could see a savings of about $10 to $15.

Although no one campaigned for the heat, several residents were upset with the vote, Abrams said. Some wanted to start a year-round water aerobics class, and others said the water would be too cold for their Northern guests who like to swim in the winter.

Without the hot summer sun, the water temperature dips to about 70 degrees.

Heated pools are as common as tennis courts in many local subdivisions. Hunter's Green Country Club, Tampa Palms' Compton Park, West Meadows, Westchase and Carrollwood Village's Golf and Tennis Club all have them. Arbor Greene doesn't.

All have had the heaters from the start, per developers' instructions. And all pay a hefty price, ranging from $6,000 to $15,000 depending on the pool size.

Westchase opted not to heat its second pool because of the high cost and low use during the winter.

"Everyone was screaming," said property manager Roganne Clark. "But then I told them how much it costs."

_ Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463 or thurstonsptimes.com.

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