Panel to study use of neighborhood pools COLUMBIA

April 27, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Harper's Choice village board member Laura Waters has organized a committee to study how to increase use of Columbia's neighborhood pools and reduce operating losses.

The group, which includes village board officials from several villages, residents and members of Columbia's 1st Place singles organization, will meet at 8 p.m. tonight in the Columbia Association Building on Wincopin Circle. The public is invited.

The study group was formed in response to a controversial proposal last month to restrict use of the Hobbit's Glen neighborhood pool to adults only for certain hours. Hobbit's Glen residents objected to the plan, which would have excluded children from a pool that has one of the lowest attendance rates of Columbia's 21 outdoor pools.

The change was intended to increase revenue and use of the pool by attracting more adult memberships and visits.

The Harper's Choice village board reached a compromise, agreeing to allow adult-only hours at the pool on a trial basis, but only on days when the pool normally would be closed for cleaning, and only if at least one other pool in Columbia participates.

The village board's compromise is a recommendation to the Columbia Council, which sets policy for the nonprofit Columbia Association. The association operates and maintains the pools, which lose about $1.5 million annually, including interest and depreciation costs.

Ms. Waters said the committee intends to study population statistics, demographics, membership figures, pool visits by adults and children, day and night pool visits and financial aspects of operating the pools. Each village will be studied, she said. Rob Goldman, Columbia Association director of membership services, is expected to present information at the meeting.

"We want to see if there are any patterns, or things that could point us in the right direction," said Ms. Waters. "We're not looking for one plan, we're looking for as many as we can think of. We want to get as many people involved as possible."

The committee also wants to evaluate "what is a reasonable amount of money to lose on pools" and how they compare financially to Columbia's other recreational facilities, said Ms. Waters.

Committee member Wanda Hurt, an Owen Brown village board member, said her aim is to discover which pools "are best suited for special projects to bring more people in."

She said she wants to find ways to upgrade the pools and expand interest.

"We don't want to see any pools closed in Columbia," she said.

Sue Senate, a member of 1st Place, which supports developing more recreational options tailored for adults, said she's "looking forward to participating on the committee because the need exists."

"I'm optimistic about working out a solution that will work for all of Columbia," said Ms. Senate, adding that she will not be representing 1st Place at the meeting.

The committee intends to develop recommendations for the Columbia Council.

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