News

City cuts benefit for disabled; families swim cheaper

By Kevin Hanson\The Courier-Herald

The city of Enumclaw is certain hundreds of swimmers will be thrilled with a new fee schedule adopted for 2007, while at the same time acknowledging a group of disabled pool users have been left grumbling.

A rate structure recommended by city staff became official with recent City Council approval.

On the unhappy side are a group of disabled pool users and their supporters. Some appeared before the council last week to make their feelings known. They appreciate the therapeutic and social benefits the pool offers - to both school kids and the older set - and have enjoyed the break they've received on admission costs.

Larry Fetter - who is charged with running the pool as director of the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services - defends the decision to get rid of the special rate.

“Being disabled doesn't necessarily mean they have a financial need,” Fetter said.

He realizes the city can appear to be the cold-hearted villain in this case.

“On the surface, it seems the city is being insensitive to the disabled,” he admits.

But, Fetter explains, the overriding goal is to make the pool user-friendly for those who might be financially disadvantaged, rather than physically disabled. “We're trying to make it so anyone with a financial need is provided a lower fee structure to get in,” he said.

Those benefiting most from the new fees are families who use the pool regularly.

The rate for an annual family pass was dropped a year ago and is headed downward again. The move, Fetter figures, will result in more swimmers in the water and additional dollars in the department's coffers.

In 2005, using King County fees, the pool charged more than $600 for a family pass - and sold just one. The city reduced the rate to $360 for 2006 and sold more than 100 family passes.

For 2007, the city will offer family passes for $250. Fetter assumes pool fans will jump at the lesser rate and guesses three times more passes will be sold.

The reduced rate is available only to Enumclaw residents. City residents receive a break because their tax dollars are already helping to support the pool.

Those living outside the city still have the option of buying a $40 Partnership Pass, which entitles them to pay in-city rates.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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