Council restores money for swim center


Columbia Council members reopened the Columbia Association budget process for a couple of hours last week, just long enough to elicit applause from swimmers and parents of young children.

The council voted Thursday to reinstate $75,000 to the $29.6 million fiscal 1993 operating budget it approved Feb. 27. The money will keep the association's indoor Swim Center in Wilde Lake village open all summer. It also means parents will not have to pay $1 per visit for nurseries in the swim center and health clubs, and it will allow all neighborhood pools to open on Memorial Day weekend rather than June 17, when schools close.

The vote followed protests from about 50 Swim center and neighborhood pool users who showed up at a March 12 meeting to object to the proposed pool closing. On Thursday, about 30 parents showed up to protest the $1-per-child-per-visit fee for health club nursery services.

"We had also received a tremendous amount of phone calls and suggestion cards saying that the dollar fee would be a hard-Ship," said association spokeswoman Pamela Mack.

"Don't penalize us for having children I don't think that's fair," said Stacey Engel, a Long Reach village resident and mother of Three.

Like many parents at the meeting, Engel said she would be willing to pay a higher six-month nursery fee, now $6. The per-visit fee would have cost a family with three young children an additional $460 a year for three visits a week.

Council member Joseph Merke of Town Center pointed out that many Columbia residents had urged the council to lower the association's annual property charge of 75 cents per $100 of assessed value.

"This has been an unusual year. It's the first year we've had to make cuts," he said.

Many parents argued that they had been forced to pick up more than their share of the 2-cent cut in the annual charge the council adopted.

Borrowing from a suggestion by association President Padraic Kennedy, council member Michael Deets of Wilde Lake village proposed reinstating $25,000 cut from the Swim Center, $15,000 cut from neighborhood pools and $35,000 from the nurseries.

"I think we made a tremendous error in not thinking throug (the cuts)," Deets said.

Adopted by an 8-1 vote, the measure made up for the $75,000 with:

$940.000 left over from the fiscal 1993 budget, in excess of the association $2 million deficit-reduction goal. The association hopes to eliminate the deficit by the end of the decade. It is expected to be about $22.5 million by April 30, the end of fiscal year 1992.

* $10,000 from strong fiscal 1993 unexpectedly membership sales in Februay and March.

* $15,000 from increasing non-Columbla resident Package Plan memberships by $25 year.

* $3,500 from adjusting neighborhood pool schedules to match early public school opening in September.

* $7,000 from increasing the prices of neighborhood pool snack bar items about 20 percent.

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