Future of New Carlisle pool debated

The New Carlisle Pool may close next year if city officials can’t find a way to increase revenue.

Since 2010, the pool has lost money nearly every year, despite the city transferring $87,000 from the general fund.

But New Carlisle city leaders, concerned about a 2015 budget shortfall, are considering pulling their financial support.

Council members voted 5-2 this month to keep the pool open through 2015, giving pool operators this summer to make changes to operations and turn the tide.

Closing the pool was one of several potential budget cuts city council members considered as they look to cut between $250,000 to $300,000 from the general fund to avoid ending this year with less than $400 and facing the possibility of going into the red.

Instead council members recently cut its contract with the sheriff in half, eliminating two deputy positions and saving about $190,000. City Manager Kim Jones said further cuts are needed and hopes council members change their decision to keep the pool open through this year.

“It was my intention to close the pool. To me I didn’t really have to think about it. I’m hoping they will reconsider before we actually start the work of getting it ready to go,” she said.

The pool lost $67,000 last year and was $27,000 in the red in 2013, according to city officials.

Council member John Krabacher voted against opening the pool this year and referred to it as a “money pit.”

“Last year, we put $51,000 in it. That’s a big chunk of money. The (pool) budget itself is $94,000 and that’s only three months and it generated less than $40,000,” Krabacher said. “… If you do that every year and every year, it’s a bad business deal.”

The city is considering changes to increase revenue and lower expenses, said Valerie Herdman, a pool manager for 14 years and a certified lifeguard.

Among the proposed changes: raising pool membership fees, increasing gate prices for non-residents, lowering the temperature of the pool, adjusting pool hours, raising concession prices and having pool workers buy their own uniforms.

The New Carlsile pool draws residents from Tipp City, Troy and Fairborn, Herdman said.

“We have to keep this going for our kids,” she said. “If we close the pool, what else is there for our children in this community to do? … Our kids need something to do. If we don’t give them something to do in the summer, that’s when we’re going to see vandalism occurring. We’re going to see a lot more happening on the streets.”

The weather affects the pool’s finances, Herdman said.

“If we have a hot summer we’re going to do great,” she said. “If we have a cold summer, it’s not going to be so good.”

Mayor Lowell McGlothin said he voted to keep the pool open through 2015 because of the proposed changes to its operations to save money.

“We can’t afford to keep losing money on it. If in deed it happens again this year, then my vote will be we need to close it. Unfortunately, once you close it, it will be closed forever, probably,” he said.

It would be ideal if another entity would lease the pool, McGlothin said.

The proposed changes likely won’t save enough money to make the pool self sustaining, Krabacher said, and he questioned whether a city of 5,600 people can support a municipal pool when many larger cities are struggling or closing their facilities.

“It’s a risky business,” Krabacher said.

Many public pools across Ohio and nationwide have either closed or are struggling.

Woody Woodward, executive director of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Foundation, said many municipal pools were built in the ’60s and ’70s and maintenance costs for those are increasing.

“Many of them are getting to a place in their life cycle where they need major repairs or need to be replaced. The revenue to do those repairs or replacement is difficult sometimes to come up with,” Woodward said.

A rainy summer can be devastating, he said, and mean the difference between the success and failure of a pool’s season.

“We’ve seen some close, we’ve seen some be re-purposed and redeveloped so that maybe where their was once just a basic swimming pool, it’s now part of an overall water park with some of the newer amenities, splash pad, a slide or a lazy river and the pool is part of an overall water park plan,” Woodward said.

Municipal pool financial issues have little to do with the recession, Woodward said, and public pools tend to do well during tough economic times.

Splash Zone Family Aquatic Center includes those newer amenities, such as multiple slides and a splash pad.

National Trail Parks and Recreation District spent about $282,000 to run that water park last year, and it generated about $184,000. It operated with an approximate $98,000 loss in 2014, said National Trail Director Leann Castillo, adding that the district moved money from its general fund to cover the losses.

“Some years are different than others and it’s all dependent on the weather. Last year, we had more than 35 days below 75-degree weather and that doesn’t bode well for the pool. But in 2012, we were only $42,000 off … it was a very hot, dry summer,” Castillo said.

Maintenance and mechanical parts costs can make operating water parks and pools expensive, she said.

If New Carlisle council members don’t reconsider their decision, Jones said city officials will have to hope for warm weather this summer and make cuts in other areas.

The only time the pool has ever made money was the first year of selling two year passes in 2011 or 2012, Jones said, and the proposed changes likely won’t produce the savings needed.

“You can do all the marketing and all the great planning that you want and it all boils down to the weather,” Jones said.

It’s important to keep the pool open, Herdman said.

“Our pool is a service to our community. Are we there to make money? That would be really nice. Weather plays a big part whether we make money,” she said.