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Monett Area YMCA to take over management of Pierce City pool

Friday, April 17, 2009

The City Council in Pierce City has authorized a contract with the Monett Area YMCA for management of the municipal swimming pool for the first time. Lacking the managers who ran the pool for the last two years, Mayor Carol Hirsch asked the YMCA to tell Pierce City aldermen what the Y could do for the coming summer.

Speaking at the monthly city council meeting, YMCA Executive Director Gordon Brown said records showed operation of the pool cost the city $14,000 two years ago. Last year, the pool operation appears to have broken even.

Brown proposed the city underwrite operations with a $6,000 contract. He projected an $8,000 loss for the coming year, which the Y hoped to make up in new memberships. Rates were based on costs and Pierce City's pool having around one-third of the capacity of the Monett pool.

Under Brown's proposal, rates for pool use would remain very similar to what they had been. Open swim admission would be $3 per person. A season pass, which had been $75 and $25 more for additional family members on the same pass, would switch to the formula used by the YMCA in running the Monett pool and the Cassville Aquatic Center, that of $70 per individual and $175 for a standard sized family.

YMCA members would be able to use the pool for free, or the Y's pools in Monett, Cassville or Springfield. YMCA members would also get discounts on classes. Swimming lessons would be $45 for non-members and $25 for YMCA family members. Water aerobics would cost $25 for eight lessons and be free for Y members.

As with all YMCA programs, Brown said financial assistance for pool passes and YMCA memberships were available to those who qualify. Children from economically stressed families who qualify for free and reduced meals at school would be eligible for assistance.

Pool rentals had been $80 for two hours. Brown offered to break that down to $40 per hour for up to 50 people. Beyond that number, an additional cost of $12 per hour would be charged for a lifeguard. Previously the fee had been $30.

The YMCA usually has a member-joining fee in addition to the $30 per month charge for individuals or $44 for families. Brown offered to waive that fee for a one-year agreement for Pierce City residents joining between May 4 and 15.

According to city records, the city took in $6,874 in total pool passes last year. The YMCA would keep admissions plus concessions, which were not known for last year. Brown said he would be willing to tell aldermen what the concession sales total was for future planning.

The city would have to be responsible for equipment and pool repair as needed, as well as opening and closing maintenance. Brown wanted to see additional lighting on the north side of the pool for night use, but thought some inexpensive spotlights could provide the needed visibility. The YMCA would pay for electricity costs and the telephone. The city would be expected to cover the water and pool chemical expenses.

Under the YMCA's plan, the pool would open on May 30, the same day at Monett's pool. The usual opening is the Thursday after Memorial Day, Brown said. With school letting out later this year, the date was adjusted. Since school ends in Pierce City on May 28, a day before Monett, Brown said it was possible the Pierce City pool could open on May 29. The pool closing date would be the Sunday before school starts, which would be Aug. 16.

Lifeguard training will take place the third week of April at the pool in Carthage. Cost for 16-to-18-year-olds will be $125 per person. YMCA associate Jeremy Key said the fee covers rental expenses and equipment. Asked about giving hiring preference to Pierce City youth as lifeguards, Brown said he saw advantages to hiring local people and was more likely to prefer hiring an older guard, such as an 18-year-old from Monett, as opposed to at 15-year-old from Pierce City.

Aldermen liked the idea of the proposal but were unsure if they could afford it. Brown said the council could have the rest of the calendar year to pay the cost in installments. If at the end of the summer, the council agreed to extend the contract for the following year, the YMCA could arrange to spread payments through all of calendar year 2010. Brown pointed out the increase in minimum wage for $7.25 an hour in July made around a $1,500 difference in the cost of running the pool.

"I'd like to see the pool professionally managed for one year," said Mayor Hirsch.

Weighing the potential costs of bearing the entire expense, aldermen agreed to the authorize Hirsch to sign a deal.

"The Y board chose to do this purely as a service to Pierce City," Brown added.

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