Tuesday, June 20

Will the City Commission Gut its commitment to Aquatics?

The travesty continues. And apparently, its time to pay the piper.

At a work session tonight at 5:30, the city commission will debate a $2.2 Million bond issue on city aquatic facilities. There are some non-controversial items included in that bond issue (the electrical system at Mitchell Pool needs some work, etc.), but others deserve some real comment and concern.

Included in the recommendation is about $100 Grand for a hot tub at the Nat, demolishing the JayCee and Water Tower pools (replacing them with "Spray Decks"), etc.

Most of the recommendations seem to be based on a report commissioned by the city last summer, and published in the Trib last July here. The numbers sure look identical.

Implementing these changes would leave the Nat and the Mitchell as the only public pools in Great Falls. So why spend a ton of dough?

Simple, the city aquatic program is hemorrhaging money. Why? One reason; the White Water Elephant. How much money are we losing in the operation of our aquatics? See for yourself.

In 2004, we lost about $285k. In 2005, about $105k. 2006 is only projected to lose $3.4k, and if you believe that, you are more gullible than you should be. (The 2005 budget only projected to lose $53k).

Of the $105k we lost last year, roughly $85k went to interest payments on the White Water Elephant. We will own the thing outright in 2015. (The original purchase price was $1.5M, and we are paying 6.65% on the debt).

The city is now doing only minimal maintenance on the JayCee and Water Tower facilities, waiting for the pools to sufficiently deteriorate enough to allow their permanent closure. Seems like a done deal? And its a good thing if you agree that "You have to entertain the swimmer, rather than just give him a pool of water," as was stated by a prospective contractor in the original Trib story.

Once the JayCee and the Water Tower are closed, the Mitchell will be the only option for Great Falls residents who want to swim in a public pool. Most will not choose to spend the entire day there, as coolers have been disallowed since the White Water Elephant was built, in favor of requiring people to buy the overpriced food at the concession stand.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. The city has no business providing any aquatic facilities other than holes in the ground filled with clean water. No wave riders, no hot tubs, no frills or aquatic "experiences." Let private industry fill that niche. The city should operate simple pools which are available to city residents at reasonable prices. The operation of those pools should be priced so that we break even on their operation.

I have posted on this before, here and here. GeeGuy has a good post about the situation here.

'Nuff said.


GeeGuy said...

Yeah, we'll own the thing outright in 2015. And what will be the maintenance cost then?

Nice strategy, we'll let the alternatives deteriorate until they vanish. Then all consumers will be forced to use the water park thereby (hopefully) increasing revenue there.

That sounds like their public power plans. They only pencil with captive customers. More good management!

Treasure State Jew said...

More, that strategy was written into the budget as policy!

Anyone know what happened at the meeting? I had kids to watch ...

Byrd said...

I'd like to know how kids are supposed to learn how to swim on a "Spray Deck" or whatever it's called. I learned to swim at the Nat and at the Mitchell Pool. My parents now live near the neighborhood pool at 33rd St. South and when we visit my children love to be able to just walk down and go swimming there.