Pools are a sparkling part of summertime, especially for children. And while many cities operate pools, they can be difficult to maintain; however, most cities see value in them when it comes to the entertainment and recreational exercise opportunities they provide for citizens. Following are snapshots of various cities’ experiences with their pools.
Newnan, Ga.’s, pool and expansion
In Newnan, Gina Snider, public information officer, said that the city was expanding hours and partnering up with the local YMCA. Previously, Newnan had been partnered with the local county parks and recreation department — though debates exist about starting up a city parks and recreation department — but the county parks and recreation didn’t mind giving up the pool contract.
Snider said, “We engaged nonprofit companies, calling them up to see if there’s anything they wanted to do with the pool. We looked at public pools and private and homeowner’s association pools in subdivisions. We decided to work with the YMCA because private companies would be a big cost and they didn’t want to do such a little program because of liability. The YMCA of metropolitan Atlanta is a huge YMCA just outside the city limits. Their members can come to the city pool now.”
YMCA is managing the pool and the city is providing maintenance. Prices will be kept at $3 per day.
There are 35,000 people living in Newnan now. In 2010, Newnan used a $942,000 special purpose local option sales tax fund to expand the pool to 4,200 square feet, which includes a forty-two-foot-wide zero entry; a mushroom water feature; four lap lanes; a waterslide and dedicated catch pool; a splash fountain; tables; pool chairs; and umbrellas as well as a 3,000-square-foot concessions and administration area. They are looking at pool hours expansion during the 2017 season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Assistant City Manager Hasco Craver said they are asking the public what its priorities are for the pool and will try to work that out for the city.
Kalamazoo, Mich.’s, pool remaining open
“Kalamazoo’s Kik Pool will be open again this summer,” Patrick McVerry of Kalamazoo’s Department of Parks and Recreation said. “We never had intentions of closing the pool. The idea of the Kik Pool closing came from a budget presentation in front of our city commission in 2016. Our department provided operating numbers for our pool and what the subsidy level was to educate the commission. We also presented different options, including it becoming a splash pad to save money and generate revenue. After this meeting, we held meetings with key customers who use the pool, as well as community members.”
McVerry added, “Kik Pool is a valuable asset to our community as a place that children can learn to swim and cool off during the summer. It is an aging facility and will definitely need to be updated in the next few years, but the community and our commission won’t let it close.”
Pools are expensive to maintain. Between utilities, lifeguards, chemicals, heating, cleaning, water and sewer costs, Sean Fletcher, director of Kalamazoo’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the city spent $103,752 on Kik Pool in 2015, and the pool generated about $32,000 in revenue from swim groups, pool rentals, open swimming and passes. On top of annual operating expenses, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars needed for longer-term maintenance issues.
Ingham County, Mich.’s, pools: some open, some closed
Lisa StClair, university sanitarian with Michigan State University, had information about some of the pools in Ingham County — those municipal-owned and not run through school districts, etc. During her work for more than the past 35 years with pools, she is aware of pools in Lansing and East Lansing that are remaining open and ones in Leslie that closed in 2015 and Williamston that closed around 2008.
An information sheet on the Leslie pool stated: “The expenses and costs to renovate the pool have outpaced the city’s ability to support the pool despite the generous donations, grants and fees collected over the years. Recently, there have been questions raised about the city’s decision to close the pool. There was a long process behind this decision spanning several years. Ultimately, there was nobody who wanted to close the pool, however it was a reality based on the costs of the project and the costs of operations and maintenance. The pool was no longer a sustainable asset for the community.”
The city had received a $100,000 land and water grant from the state of Michigan and federal government for pools, which was the highest amount available. But bids for the minimum necessary renovations came in between $279,000 and $322,000. The city could not pay the remaining sums.
Jeremy Hoeh, with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, is part of the office that issues operating licenses to public swimming pools, including hotel and apartment pools, in Michigan. The office had information on the number of licenses issued over the last several years. It works with local health departments at the county level in regulation of these pools, said Jeremy. “They conduct routine annual compliance inspections as part of a contract for this work.”
For the year 2014, 4,941 licenses were issued, which includes 214 multi-year; for 2015, 4,870 were issued, including 158 multiyear; and then in 2016, 4,835 licenses were issued, including 159 multi-year. This data shows that over those recent three years there was a slight decline in the number of licenses issued, which could correspond to some pool closures during that time.
Troy, N.Y.’s, closings
In Troy, a parks and recreation employee said the pools there need major repairs and there are two pools that will be closed. Deputy Mayor Monica Kurzejeski said in a public meeting that “It would cost as much as $800,000 just to get the pools in South Troy and Knickerbocker Park in condition to reopen.” Even if the city could spend that much, she warned that there were larger structural problems that would continue to need attention.
The information office of Troy issued the following statement, “Upon receipt of the final assessment and condition report of the city’s municipal swimming pools conducted by the city’s engineering consultant, the administration will work with our team to analyze the results and develop a financially responsible long-term action plan. The administration remains committed to finding solutions which will best serve our residents and strengthen the long-term viability and sustainability of our recreational facilities and programs.”
From expansion to closure, the snapshots included showed that no community really wanted to close its pool — pools were seen as an asset to the residents. But when the costs of maintenance and renovation became too high for the revenue sources, some pools had to close.