Panel to suggest pool improvements 'Reasonable prices,' added use sought

November 11, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

A committee is set to recommend ways of improving Columbia's 21 outdoor pools -- including proposals to increase memberships and profitability, and to designate time exclusively for adult use -- at tonight's Columbia Council meeting.

The council's pool committee will make recommendations on four facets of managing the pools, which are a focal point for Columbia neighborhoods and a centerpiece of the Columbia Association's recreational offerings.

The four facets are operations, including health, safety and maintenance; increasing memberships; improving pool services and amenities; and swim teams and meets.

"Essentially, we decided things are pretty well handled. We don't need to reinvent the wheel," said Councilman Roy T. Lyons, who was chairman of the committee, which included about a dozen residents. "We need to fine-tune what exists and make some sacrifices to upgrade and make things right or better."

The council, which has yet to release the committee's report, will meet at 8 p.m. at the Columbia Association Building, 10221 Wincopin Circle.

The committee, which convened in August, was charged with finding ways to increase use of the pools at "reasonable prices" and with promoting access at a subsidy "acceptable" to those who pay the association's annual property charge.

Some residents have expressed concern that the pools are losing about $1.5 million annually, including interest and depreciation, a deficit that must be plugged with revenue from property assessments. The losses result partly because some pools, especially older ones lacking amenities such as volleyball courts and snack bars, are used too sparingly, they say.

The committee was formed partly in response to controversies that developed this year over proposals to designate certain pools with slack attendance for use by adults or teen-agers only, at least during certain hours, to increase memberships and daily admissions.

"We believe some pools may be assigned as adult pools," Mr. Lyons said.

He said that "one or more of the least utilized pools" would be candidates for that designation, either all the time or some of the time. He didn't specify which neighborhood pools would be considered.

"We'll give a smorgasbord to the council," Mr. Lyons said. "They're not going to eat the whole meal."

The council acts as the board of directors, setting policy and the budget for the private, nonprofit Columbia Association, which runs the unincorporated city's recreational facilities and community programs. The association set its record for pool visits last summer with 492,000.

Committee member Laura Waters said demographics indicate that "a lot of adults in Columbia can use time at an adult pool."

Ms. Waters wrote a "minority report" to address issues and offer proposals for adult pools that weren't included in committee report. She suggested that Columbia's 10 villages, which receive grants from the association, subsidize pool memberships for residents who can't afford the association's discounted rates for those who meet low-income standards.

Also tonight, the council is scheduled to consider Long Reach village's request for a $24,923 budget supplement to cover legal costs associated with the village's disputed election last spring for Columbia Council.

Council members also will have an opportunity to present their desires for the 1994-1995 budget year. The council expects to receive the proposed budget from Columbia Association staff members Dec. 22.

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