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City rethinking swim pool cuts

Molalla citizens voicing objections to the reduced hours of operation at the Molalla Aquatic Center.


by: CITY OF MOLALLA - The city has cut the Aquatic Center's hours so that the pool is closed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays Many Molalla-area citizens in the last couple of weeks have voiced strong concern over the fact that the city has cut the hours for use of the swim pool at the Molalla Aquatic Center.

With the pool closed from 9 a.m.to about 5 p.m. weekdays, as of Dec. 1, those most affected seem to be Molalla’s senior citizens, many of whom said they used the pool for exercise or therapy.

Molalla Adult Center Director Cecily Rose said the center’s transportation program provided transportation for seniors to the pool, as well as to doctor appointments and physical therapy.

“Sometimes a doctor orders low impact exercise that includes swimming,” Rose said. “So we have people in that program who are affected by the new pool schedule. These people enjoy using the pool, but it’s also a health issue when they can’t.”

City Manager Dan Huff said he believes most of those voicing concern are not tax-paying Molalla residents.

“I think 95 percent of the complaints we have received since the hours have changed happen to be from people that do not reside within the city limits of Molalla,” Huff said last week. “In response to a need for the city to be good fiscal stewards of city resourses, we examined ways to reduce the strain on the city’s general fund and residents within the city limits. Reducing hours the pool is open to the public allows the city to reduce mandatory staffing and reduces our expenditures. Public pools are very expensive to operate (over $430,000 annually).”

Huff said the aquatic center is generally funded with 35 percent coming equally from each the city’s general fund and the $4.75 per month Molalla residents pay on their water bill, and 30 percent by user fees.

The fee schedule was considered by the city council Dec. 11. The council also discussed the reduction in pool hours, which Huff said is an administrative function.

At the hearing, Sue Gee, of Mulino, said she is a regular user of the Molalla swimming pool.

“We don’t need to put up further barriers to people using the pool,” Gee told the council. “To cut hours creates an enormous hardship for people. Fees are high for people who use the pool during regular hours on limited income. You need to think out your plan to increase rates and limit the hours.”

Danny Kreinheder, of Molalla, is a retired government worker who used the pool to swim six days a week. He said he pays an annual fee to use the pool and has logged many hours during the past year. When he started his swim program, he had health problems, but with the daily swimming, he said he has regained his health to a large degree.

“It’s been great,” he told the city council. “I don’t need to see doctors as long as I can swim every day. I hope you can make some compromises with the hours at least — just keep a few morning hours instead of cutting them all as you did.”

During the council discussion, councilors asked for detailed information from city Aquatic Director Melissa Georgesen.

Georgesen said the best year revenue traffic through December 2013 is $12,000. The pool makes $35.78 per hour when it is open, and it costs $112 per hour to run, so the city is left with a shortfall.

“These numbers won’t be seen again in 2014,” Georgesen said. “With the reduced hours, the pool is now generating $24.16 per hour in revenue.”

The shortfall is made up by revenue from property taxes and utility fees, she said.

“If I have one person in the pool, I need two lifeguards, and I don’t have enough money to pay for two,” she said, adding that she couldn’t see a way to revise the hours without affecting the people who want to use it. “The only place to reduce costs is staffing, and if I reduce staffing, I have to reduce hours.”

Mayor Debbie Rogge asked if, with increased fees and reduction of hours, the pool will net as projected, to which city Finance Director Heather Penni answered, “Yes.”

Georgesen, however, said, “The startling fact with the decrease in hours is that there are so many people complaining.

“I find it hard to believe that 170 people have a pass,” she said. “Of those, 72 live in the city, and 79 live in the Molalla River School District. The people are not using the pool. If you are going to decrease the park and recreation fee, then you have to give me more money out of the fund.”

Georgesen said charging Molalla citizens $4.75 on their water bills was supposed to be a temporary measure. “But if citizens want to support the pool, then by all means, let them,” she said.

Georgesen said the city should charge the school district more for use of the pool, as she feels the school district uses the pool more than others.

As far as charging pool admission at the door, she said she can’t keep track of who use the pool because she doesn’t have a specific software program to keep track of who has or has not got a pool pass when pool users arrive. “So the staff has to use paper, not a computer,” to check for passes, she complained.

Georgesen did not specify why she would need a particular, and apparently expensive, software program to record information on who purchases a pass, rather than simply create a database that would be available to her staff at the door.

Councilor George Pottle asked what it was Georgesen wanted from the council.

“No B.S., Melissa, what is your fix for the problem?” Pottle said.

“I want an assistant. I want more money,” Goergesen answered. “It’s a lap pool. It’s too cold for seniors who need rehab.”

Pottle asked if she was suggesting that the city should go for a bond. He said that instead, the school district take the pool back and pick up the costs.

Huff said if the city decides to increase the user fee, that would come “nowhere close” to covering the costs.

“The only thing is to talk to the school district about the district operating plan,” Huff said. “We need a revenue source that carries the operation of the pool. Based on the data, it’s people living in the school district who use the pool most. We need to have a conversation with the school district before we make any decisions.”

she feels the school district uses the pool more than others.

As far as charging pool admission at the door, she said she can’t keep track of who uses the pool because she doesn’t have a specific software program to keep track of who has or has not got a pool pass when pool users arrive. “So the staff has to use paper, not a computer,” to check for passes, she complained.

Georgesen did not specify why she would need a particular, and apparently expensive, software program to record information on who purchases a pass.

Councilor George Pottle asked what it was Georgesen wanted from the council.

“No bullshit, Melissa, what is your fix for the problem?” Pottle said.

“I want an assistant. I want more money,” Georgesen answered. “It’s a lap pool. It’s too cold for seniors who need rehab.”

Pottle asked if she was suggesting that the city should go for a bond. He said that instead, the school district take the pool back and pick up the costs.

Huff said if the city decides to increase the user fee, that would come “nowhere close” to covering the costs.

“The only thing is to talk to the school district about the district operating plan,”

Huff said. “We need a revenue source that carries the operation of the pool. Based on the data, it’s people living in the school district who use the pool most. We need to have a conversation with the school district before we make any decisions.”




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