Committee recommends designating two low-attendance pools for adults only Report encourages open membership

November 12, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

A committee seeking ways to improve revenue and services at Columbia's 21 outdoor pools recommended last night aggressively marketing memberships to non-Columbia residents and designating two sparingly used pools for adults only.

The committee presented its report to the Columbia Council, which has grappled previously with the prickly issues of restricting the use of facilities to certain groups and encouraging more nonresidents to join to increase revenues.

Since about two-thirds of Columbia's households are without children, the committee recommended that one pool on each side of Route 29 with low attendance be restricted to people over age 21 on a trial basis for the summer of 1994.

That majority of households now is "not being adequately served," the committee wrote. "Fairness would dictate that at least one of the 21 pools be designated as a quiet place for adults to gather."

Council and association proposals earlier this year to restrict certain neighborhood pools to adult use, at least for certain hours, angered residents who felt their children were being denied access. The committee anticipates the same "resistance" to its proposal, acknowledging that some families with children will oppose relinquishing the "privilege" of attending the nearest pool.

But the committee maintains that children's merrymaking and adults' desire to relax sometimes conflict, and that both groups can be accommodated under its proposal.

One village board -- Oakland Mills -- already has opposed the idea. Village board Chairman James Oremland told the council last night that any pool designated as "adult-only" would no longer "properly serve" the surrounding community.

To try to plug a budget shortfall in pool operations, which reached $356,000 this year, the committee recommended seeking to increase memberships among people who live outside Columbia. Those memberships could have certain restrictions, such as allowing visits only at the eight or so pools with the lowest attendance, the committee wrote.

Once interest on bonds issued to build the pools, depreciation and administrative costs are included, the pools lose about $1.5 million annually, a deficit that must be made up through property assessments.

The council has often debated how to maintain financially sound operations while satisfying residents who pay the Columbia Association's annual property charge.

The committee also recommended expanding food operations and pool rental programs and developing a comprehensive plan to improve pools that lack amenities.

Councilman Roy T. Lyons, who chaired the pool committee of about a dozen residents, said the report is not meant to "condemn" any current practices or financial conditions but to improve them.

"Columbia doesn't have any fatal illnesses," he said.

The council, which sets policy and the budget for the association, did not discuss the report because members hadn't had time to review it, said Chairwoman Karen Kuecker.

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