Both County Pools Staying Open Next Year, But Fees Going Up
Commissioners support a deal to defray costs for the Land O' Lakes pool and give supporters a year to find community backing for the Hudson public pool.
County commissioners agreed to a proposed deal that will keep the public pool in Land O’ Lakes running and gave supporters of the pool in Hudson a year to find money to keep that facility operating.
The deal between the Land O’ Lakes Lightning Swim Team and the county calls for the nonprofit organization to pay most of the pool’s costs including operations and minor maintenance.
The team would cover about $100,000 of the pool costs, leaving the county to pick up about $41,000, some of which will be covered by about $10,000 in user fees.
Commissioners on Tuesday also agreed to increased charges at both pools to help increase revenue.
Fees for children would go from $2 to $3 and adults from $3 to $4. Adult season passes would cost $60, an increase of $10. Family passes would go up by $20 to $120.
While all commissioners supported the deal to keep the Land O’ Lakes pool open, the board split on the decision that prevented the pool at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Hudson from closing.
West Pasco Commissioners Jack Mariano, Henry Wilson and Ann Hildebrand supported keeping the pool running one more year.
Commissioners Pat Mulieri and Ted Schrader said closing the Hudson pool was a difficult decision but the county faced difficult budget conditions.
Tight budget projections put both pools in line to close but the deal with the Lightning eased the county’s financial burden enough to save the facility.
Commissioners will review the final contract when details are worked out. Rick Buckman, county parks director, told commissioners the differences could be resolved.
The main gap is the lack of language preventing the county from bringing in another swimming group while the Lightning is paying to run the pool, its president, Brett Ewald, told commissioners.
The Lightning has about 140 members ranging in age from about 5 to 18. Its officials want to preserve the pool for that team and but also the Land O’ Lakes and Sunlake high school teams and public swimmers.
Under the plan, public swim times would continue in the summer months as they do now, except the public swimming would be seven hours a day instead of nine during the Memorial Day to Labor Day period. The pool would remain open year round for Lightning swimmers and members of the high school teams.
The plan calls for the county to pay for and manage the public swim. The Lightning would be responsible for operation and maintenance costs of the pool, including water quality control and repairs up to $2,500. The county would have to kick in for more costly repairs.
The Lightning would also pay for two certified pool operators and would be responsible for all swimming lessons.
The Hudson pool has a year’s reprieve for the community to find ways to defray its costs.
Without a team like the Lightning, it would cost the county about $118,000 to keep the Hudson pool operating, Buckman said.
Resident Sparky Judge, a daily visitor to the Hudson pool, urged commissioners to keep it open one more year. That would give the community time to find ways to raise more money to help pay the pool’s costs, he said.
Commissioners decided to take money intended to be kept as reserves to pay for both pools.
Mariano said the money is better spent to offset cuts in the parks budget than going into the county’s reserves.
“It’s incredibly irresponsible to go further with these cuts,” he said.
Wilson agreed the money should be spent on the pools rather than go into the county’s savings account.
“We have reserves for rainy days. We’re in a downpour,” Wilson said.
But Mulieri said it didn’t make sense to take money intended for reserves to run the pool when the county park budget calls for cutting jobs.
“We’re taking money out of Peter to pay Paul but eliminating park positions,” she said.
Judge said he was thrilled the Hudson pool has a reprieve. He said events such as wrestling, or band competitions and more night swimming would help boost attendance at the Veteran’s recreation center and bring in more money.
“The key is more activities,” he said.