Fees for the new Rankin Park Aquatic Center, scheduled to open in July, will be significantly higher than the fees for the old pool, but less than staff had suggested. The new fees will be $5 for adults, $4 for ages 55 and older and $2.75 for kids 3-17 years old.
Some members of the City Council balked at staff’s recommendation for a $5 entry fee across the board for everyone older than 3 at its meeting Wednesday night. Particularly upset was Councilman Mike Menesini, who called the proposed fee “outrageous.”
Staff and members of the Park, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission had suggested the $5 fee as a way of recouping the operating costs of the $5.7 million center, which is estimated to cost $170,000 annually to run. Staff member Patty Lorick said that the facility will cost more because everything runs on electricity, there are more pumps for the larger pool and more lifeguards are needed.
Vice Mayor Janet Kennedy supported the increase, noting it was “a beautiful new facility” that would attract people from throughout the area.
But members of the public, and some on the council, were upset about the rate.
“If we’ve overbuilt so we have to overcharge, shame on us,” said Carolyn Boone-Duncan. “Five dollars seems like a lot, especially if you have more than one kid.”
Dick Duncan agreed. He noted that he used the old pool to lap swim, which cost $1.
“I’m anxiously awaiting the pool to reopen,” he said. “But these new fees are blowing me out of the water.”
PMRCC commissioner Richard Patchin explained that the old fee schedule was far too low to recover operating expenses. He said the commission had considered a $4 entry fee across the board, but began with $5 “as a negotiating point” with the council.
Menesini said he opposed any fee increase.
“Frankly, I don’t want to raise these rates at all,” he said. “I’m bothered by the fact that families that live on Arreba Street and Estudillo Street are now going to be asked to pay $5 apiece for a flock of kids. It’s outrageous. This is a community pool. It’s for kids who don’t have a swimming pool in their back yard."
Councilwoman Lara DeLaney suggested raising the rates for swimming lessons instead, to make up the difference in operating costs, and keep the entrance fees lower. Lorick replied that raising rates in the past for lessons resulted in a significant drop in attendance.
On a suggestion from City Manager Phil Vince, the council agreed to a fee structure that was lower for kids and seniors.