Pool fees will not be cut by Columbia Association Proposal would have cost CA $1 million to $2 million

September 23, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dan Morse contributed to this article.

A move to provide either free or less expensive swimming to Columbia residents appears to be dead after a weekend retreat of the Columbia Association's board of directors.

"I don't think free pools will happen this year," said board member Cecilia Januszkiewicz of Long Reach village. "There's too much resistance."

Most of the 10 members of the board attended the budget XTC retreat at Linden Hall in the Dorsey Search Village Center to debate 35 proposals for next fiscal year's $46 million budget.

Several board members had proposed eliminating or reducing the fees for Columbia's 23 pools which, this year, cost more than 1,400 Columbia families $252 each.

That money was in addition to the families' yearly liens paid to CA. A typical homeowner pays about $730 a year in liens.

CA staffers say eliminating pool fees would cost CA $1 million to $2 million. And losing that revenue would hinder the group's ability to pay off its $6.1 million deficit, created when CA had to borrow money for operating expenses.

Under current projections, CA officials say the group's deficit will be eliminated by 2000, as revenues are expected to increase.

"In 2000, we're going to hit the lottery, so the idea of some members is not to spend any money now on reducing fees," Januszkiewicz said. "We have the cash to reduce the lien, but to make pools free or reduce the fees at other facilities means losing money."

In all, CA is about $90 million in debt, including money borrowed for capital projects.

Board members said they hope to distribute a survey among Columbia residents in early November, asking whether they prefer to reduce or eliminate pool fees. CA's financial management group is expected to review the proposals.

"Pools are valued very highly by people of Columbia," said Alex Hekimian, a board member from Oakland Mills. "We have to make them more accessible, more affordable."

In other budget discussions, the board agreed to set aside about $18,000 to pay for two video cameras to tape the association's budget hearings and about $25,000 for artwork in public areas.

Some of the budget proposals that were withdrawn at the retreat include ending free health club memberships to CA board members, studying trends in Columbia property values and funding a study on the possibility of incorporating Columbia as a city.

Although the Institute of Governmental Service at the University of Maryland began such a study last year, the Columbia Municipal League -- a group that is pro-incorporation -- that commissioned it backed out when it didn't like some of the study's initial findings.

But the idea of CA funding the $3,000 needed to complete the study drew little support.

"I don't hear people yelling and screaming they wanted it," said Hope M. Sachwald, a board member from Harper's Choice.

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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