Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler is hoping to get past the negative publicity SomerSplash water park has been receiving lately.

He was not pleased Thursday evening when he turned on the television to see a Lexington news station interviewing departing water park manager Faith Anne Molyneaux - who was complaining about the way city government is handling the operation of SomerSplash.

The Lexington station said reporters had attempted to contact Mayor Girdler, however, Girdler says his office has no record of that.

Last night, the Lexington media agreed to backtrack and attempt to put a positive spin on the water park situation.

Mayor Girdler is just hoping the damage hasn't already been done.

Rumors have been circulating since before Girdler took office that his goal is to destroy the North U.S. 27 water park, which will be opening for its second season this May. Somerset's city council, in a civil suit filed against Girdler last month, accuses him of attempting to ruin the financial status of the park, forcing employees to lie about the sale of 2007 season passes, and not training lifeguards who will be employed there this summer.

Girdler seems baffled by the accusations.

"I don't understand why people would think I want this to fail. ... I am absolutely, in no way, and will never be, harmful to the water park," he told the Common-wealth Journal yesterday.

"It is my goal to have the most successful water park of any administration. We've got $11 million of taxpayers' money invested in it. We need to make sure it's a wise investment and make it work. ... I have always said it should be expanded and grow with more activities."

SomerSplash was the brainchild of former Somer-set Mayor JP Wiles, and during his administration, the park had a successful first season. Yesterday, Girdler, in an apparent effort to dispel rumors that he is jealous of the park's success, told the Common-wealth Journal he had actually proposed to name the water park after Wiles.

Girdler said he is concerned about the possible decrease in tourism this summer due to lowered levels of Lake Cumberland. He is hoping to "refocus" the water park's draw, he said, to include more local and regional participation - to ensure that families will continue to visit SomerSplash even if tourists don't come. He is also attempting to draw more groups, such as churches and corporations, to the park.

"If our tourist dollars are down, we need to do a better job of working with churches and other entities," Girdler said. He said tourists wouldn't have much to see in Pulaski County, other than SomerSplash and the Mill Springs battlefield area, if the lake is not an attraction.

He's also hoping to extend SomerSplash's hours of operation this summer.

"I'd like to see it stay open until 8 or 9 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.," Girdler said.

Some nights, the park could even stay open as late as 11 p.m., with concerts and other special events available, he said.

Girdler is also envisioning an indoor play area at the water park.

"We are working on ways of expanding activities that would include more than just water activities, because that really limits you to May through September," he said.

"We've got big plans for the water park," Girdler continued, adding that many of his ideas would need to be discussed with city council before they could take effect.

"I hope to double the attendance this year."

Molyneaux's last day on the job was yesterday. Girdler says Parks and Recreation Director Joe Ford is handling the water park's operation while a new manager is sought. Girdler said several applications for the position had been received so far.

"We're getting it into shape. Joe Ford and the staff have been working night and day," Girdler said.

Girdler also said lifeguards are being trained, and that there will be sufficient staff to open the water park on Memorial Day weekend as anticipated.

On the surface, Girdler certainly doesn't seem intent on destroying SomerSplash.

"Whether anybody likes it or not is not important at this stage," he said.

"We have it, and we need to work with it. If the water park is successful, we're all successful - including the mayor."

Girdler said he could not discuss Molyneaux's resignation - not only because the water park is included in the litigation against him - but also because it is a "personnel issue."

Before her departure, Molyneaux told the Commonwealth Journal she would have to consult with an attorney before she answered any questions concerning the water park. She did not return phone calls or an e-mail sent to her in an attempt to obtain comments.

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