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New fees in place when pool opens
By Kevin Hanson
When the city swimming pool opens for customers in mid-January, it will be operating with a new fee schedule and under a new philosophy.
The details were spelled out last week by Larry Fetter, director of the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Programs Department. His suggestions were unanimously approved by the six council members present, though some expressed concerns.
The pool is now closed, undergoing liner replacement and in need of repair work where a section of tiles recently fell off. The latest guess for a re-opening date is around Jan. 16.
Fetter told the council the pool operation has set five goals:
for pool programs to recover more than 50 percent of their cost;
to expand the user base and give the pool a regional appeal;
to encourage memberships over daily “drop ins”;
to offer new programs, attractions and events;
and to develop a marketing and sales strategy.
The biggest surprise for pool users will come in the form of rates. Those who pay each time they use the pool have been charged $2 for a one-hour session, with the same fee assessed to all. Beginning in January, the rate will jump substantially: the youth/senior rate will be $3.50 and adults will pay $4.50, with a new family rate of $12 in place.
The stated goal is to generate more pool members in lieu of pay-as-you-go users. That's reflected in the new rates for memberships which, in some cases, have dropped noticeably. Here are a few examples:
The three-month pass for youth and seniors has been $59.62 and will increase by only 38 cents to $60. The three-month pass for adults will drop from $97.56 to $80 and the three-month family pass will climb from $173.40 to $180.
The 12-month pass for youth and seniors will decrease from $130.08 to $120. The yearly charge for adults will drop substantially, from $249.32 to $160, and the annual family pass drops from $398.91 to $360.
New to the fee structure will be one-month passes. Charges will be $30 for youth/seniors, $40 for adults and $90 for families. In addition, pool visitors can purchase 10-punch tickets that will cost less than paying at the open rate.
Those who purchase annual memberships will be eligible for “Splash Pass” benefits, which could include an hour of free pool rental, discounts on swim lessons and pool merchandise, guest passes and special, “member only” swim times. Details on those benefits have not been finalized.
The new rates adopted by the City Council are for city residents only. Non-residents are charged an additional 25 percent, though a new “partnership pass” has been implemented. For an annual fee, non-residents can qualify for in-city rates.
Council members were clear when they stated they want to keep an eye on pool use, making sure the new fee structure doesn't have too big a negative impact, particularly on the casual pool visitor.
Jim Hogan, in particular, spoke about the possibility of turning away those who enjoy the pool only occasionally. They will find rates for kids nearly doubled and, for adults, more than doubled. “I would sure hate to alienate those folks,” Hogan said.
Council made it clear they could bring back the rate issue if it proves unpopular.
Kevin Hanson can be reached at email@example.com.