LIMA — Municipal swimming pools are not major money makers for municipalities in the region. Instead, they tend to drain resources rather than being viewed as a public service to village and city officials.
The costs of chemicals, facility upkeep and paying personnel far outweighs any revenue made from visitors each season, with a couple of exceptions.
“We spend anywhere from $7,500 to $10,000 on chemicals a year,” said City of Lima Recreation Supervisor Brett Roehm.
He said the city can spend as little as $2,600 on capital improvements at the pool one year and as much as $23,000 the next. It all depends on what needs to be fixed or replaced any given year.
“This year, we replaced 40 percent of the concrete deck,” Roehm said. “Concrete isn’t cheap.”
The city also spends between $25,000 and $32,000 on personnel — mostly college students and high school students looking to earn extra cash during summer break. That expenditure is dependant on the weather, as is the revenue from pool admissions, he said. If it’s a rainy or cool summer, there is less need for lifeguards on duty at the pool, which means the city spends less funding on personnel. It also means the city earns less revenue, as little as $12,000, he said. In the last five years, the most money the pool made was $22,000, but during those years it can cost as much as $32,000 to pay lifeguards to be on duty, Roehm said.
“I don’t think we ever go into a season ever expecting to make money,” he said. “If you want to go to the public pool, you don’t have to pay for a $500 membership. Our memberships are very affordable. We see it as performing a public service.”
Ottawa and Columbus Grove
The Village of Ottawa managed its municipal pool until 2012 when they signed a contract with the Putnam County YMCA to manage. According to the contract between the village and the Putnam County YMCA, the village is responsible for filling and treating the water to Health Department standards before opening on or before Memorial Day each year. It is also responsible for maintaining the structure and paying for all capital improvements and providing internet for the pool staff.
The village also pays the YMCA $37,559.46 to operate the pool each year.
“It was a budgetary and personnel issue,” said Erin Hughes, deputy clerk-treasurer for the Village of Ottawa. “We didn’t have the personnel available to manage the pool in the summer and get a good handle on it. It takes a lot of time to hire guards and train them properly. That’s what the YMCA does for a living; that’s their job.”
Amanda Schroeder, Aquatics/Youth Director for Putnam County YMCA, wasn’t available for comment on the costs of running the Ottawa swimming pool Friday.
Some pools have specials and other strategies to attract people and raise revenue. The Columbus Grove public pool has a special $1 entry fee every Wednesday, said Tami Vance, a manager at the Columbus Grove pool.
“We just wanted a day that would be for people who don’t want to spend $3 a head,” she said.
The Columbus Grove pool averages around 300 people a day, Vance said. On $1 Wednesday, that number rises to between 400 and 500 people. She remembers one Wednesday when they had a total of 674 people swim at the pool.
“We work on a budget of about $250,000; that’s about what the entire budget is for the pool,” said Jack Hayzlett, Wapakoneta Parks and Recreation supervisor. “We’ll spend about $15,000 on chemicals, about $10,000 on heating in the pool, but our biggest cost is personnel. We have about 50 employees to run the pool. That costs us somewhere in the neighborhood of $110,000 to $120,000, and that’s half our budget.”
Despite all of the costs to run the water park, the city will break even in costs in summers with good, hot weather, Hayzlett said. During summers with a lot of rain or cool weather, any losses are covered by the general fund. He said there have been some summers in the previous 11 years since the Wapakoneta water park opened when it actually made a noticeable profit.
The pool used to stay open until the beginning of September but has been forced to close earlier ever since Ohio State University and other colleges and universities went to a semester schedule instead of quarterly schedule, he said. It’s nearly impossible to find adult certified lifeguards who are willing to work the last 12 or so days of the pool season.
Hayzlett said the run of the Wapakoneta pool breaking even may be coming to an end. The pool is 11 years old now, and soon things will need to be repaired and replaced. He said to replace one water toy in the playground can cost around $13,000.
“With a budget of $250,000, you can see how that adds up,” he said.
The Auglaize County YMCA had a contract with Wapakoneta to run the municipal pool, which was replaced by the current pool 11 years ago, Hayzlett said. As long as he’s the parks and recreation supervisor, he is determined to do everything he can to keep the pool viable, but there might come a time when the city will have to enter into a contract with the YMCA again.
“The costs to maintain the water park are going to continue to rise, as are the personnel costs,” he said. “There might come a time when the council decides that’s the best way to keep the water park open.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.