Committee To Decide Future Of City Pool


At the Streets, Buildings & Grounds Committee meeting of February 10, 2020, Terry Parker, Chairman of the Vermilion Parks & Recreation Board, explained they have created a subcommittee to the Parks Board. The subcommittee consists of himself and Dennis Brudney from the Parks Board; Marc Weisenberger, Parks Supervisor (Co-Chair); Bob Cunicella, Pool Manager; Brian Holmes, City Council; Tony Valerius, Service Director; and, Jim Forthofer, Mayor (Ex-officio). They held their first meeting on January 21, 2020. Their target is to have a recommendation on what the future of the pool is for the Parks Board, City Council, and the community by January 1, 2021. 

He said they have looked at what different communities have done in terms of how they handled looking at the future of their water facilities.

He pointed out nine objectives as follows:

1. Review pool usage the last two years - 1,030 individuals in 2018 - 1,150 in 2019 (increase due in part to closing of the pool at Maude Neiding Park in Amherst).

2. Gather and evaluate community demographics - age groupings, location, including school data which is progress. They will look going forward at the age groups of the kids coming up and different class sizes.

3. Have present facility and equipment professionally evaluated (potential expert vendors have been identified).

4. Establish solid cost estimates for repairs. There were some estimates last spring, but they don't know what's under the pool. The deck needs to be replaced, but the question is what they will find when they dig it up.

5. Explore options for modernization, features, location - create concept plans and get prices. He said they will explore costs if they were to add a spray zero-entry area walking down into the pool.

6. Gather input via public meetings and surveys.

7. Identify and pursue funding sources for repairs and capital improvements (grants, sponsorships, private donations). He said he knows what the city and parks board checkbook look like, and the Park Capital Levy does not have the money that would be close to what they heard the costs would be in the spring.

8. Pursue management strategies to control expenses, and mechanisms to provide ongoing operating funds – critical for the future of the pool. He said the pool revenue runs anywhere from $16,000 to $18,000 annually and it costs $52,000 to $55,000 to operate the pool. He said they can't budget this out of the general fund on an annual basis, nor can they do it from the operating levy, so what are they going to do long-term so that they don't have to do this crisis management every year or two and ask the community to donate so they can have a pool. They will try to look at things to recommend in terms of a strategy because if the pool is going to have a future, they need to figure this aspect out. He said this year they will operate the pool with a minimum of capital repairs – just to be able to have the pool open. The Pool Manager said they can do some quick concrete work on the deck to get them through another summer. They've already agreed they will put a new roof on the pool house because there is some expensive equipment stored in it. The current heater is adequate, and they have a heater that was donated, and it will cost about $4,000 to hook it up when needed. Memberships and daily admissions alone haven't operated the pool in the past and won't in the future.

9. To operate the pool in 2020 with minimal necessary repairs, sharing the operating expenses (beyond pool revenue and donations) 50-50 between the General Fund and Parks Operating Levy. Guestimate $36,000 - $38,000 total. 

Monica Stark, Council at Large, thanked everyone who is involved with taking the time to try to keep the pool open. She is a big supporter of the pool and feels it's important to the community and the children. Council Member Brian Holmes echoed her sentiments. 

Mayor Forthofer said he has been reluctant to keep throwing money or begging for money, but wholly endorses this approach, which is overdue. He said a fact-based analysis is important when making sound judgments based on facts. He doesn't mind spending the money to get through this year if this is what they're pursuing. 

Holmes encouraged family members to sign up for memberships. He asked if they could start signing up now. Parker said memberships were down in 2019 from the previous year due to the weather. They haven't made a recommendation on rates this year, but for the traffic they have and raising the daily admission a dollar and memberships, it won't change the dynamic of what they're working with. They don't want to price people out of going to the pool. Currently, those over 65 years old are free, and those under three years old. Daily admissions for youth pay $5 a day, and over 12 or 14 years of age is $6 per daily visit. The vast amount of people in terms of regular use are people that have memberships. The same names show up almost every day on the sign in sheets. Mayor Forthofer said Parker spent days adding up the number of people who use the pool. 

Council Member Barb Brady asked Parker if he knows where people are coming from. Parker said this information is not tracked, but is something they can track as they move forward.