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City pool, parks district topics of discussion at Wednesday's meeting

With the summer swimming season rapidly approaching, Public Works Supervisor Shane Fisher on Wednesday of this week provided the Sunnyside Board of Parks and Recreation an update on the status of the city pool.

He said staff will begin filling the pool next Monday and it will take up to four days for it to be completely filled.

"It takes up to three days for the pool to warm to swimming temperatures when the weather is warmer," said Fisher.

He said he isn't certain when the Sunnyside Rotary swim team will begin its practices, but the schools will probably schedule visits to the facility the first week of June.

Also, said Fisher, a new Americans with Disabilities Act lift will be installed before the pool opens to the public.

With the pool on her mind, parks and rec board member Dorothy Aiken said she is interested in lowering the fee for swimming lessons from $25 to $20 next year.

Using Grandview's fees as an example, she said she believes more youngsters will sign up for swim lessons if the fee is the same as the fee for lessons in the neighboring pool.

Aiken also expressed a concern over whether or not swimming instructors are teaching according to the American Red Cross standards.

She said the descriptions of lessons is confusing with names like "guppies" for the levels.

"Everyone understands beginner, intermediate and advanced," said Aiken.

At the Sunnyside municipal pool eight swimming levels are available for those taking lessons and Aiken said it should be simplified.

A brief discussion ensued and the members of the board voted 2-1 in favor of the lowered swim lesson fee for the 2013 season. The Sunnyside City Council will review the fee change during the budget process for 2013-14.

Board Chair Kari Zapata dissented, saying she wasn't willing to support the lower fee without further researching the issue.

Zapata said she doesn't know whether a lower fee will draw more interest from the public or if the pool would lose revenues.

"Does losing $1,000 for 200 swimmers make sense or would we bring in enough registrations to make that up. I am most interested in having our children learn how to swim, but we haven't researched the benefits or the drawbacks," Zapata said.

Addressing the issue of swimming lesson levels, she said it would be a good idea to research the matter to ensure youngsters are being taught properly.

Fisher also told the board there will soon be speed bumps in the parking lot at South Hill Park.

He said a pathway that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act has been paved to the pavilion at the park. Potholes have also been filled in the parking lot.

He said paving of the parking lot should begin next week and speed bumps will be part of that project.

Another matter for discussion at the monthly meeting held Wednesday was the exploration of establishing a voter-approved parks district.

Aiken said, "I'm suspicious as to why only three cities in all of Washington have that type of program."

She said she believes cities like Walla Walla and Richland would have established a parks district if it benefited the community.

Zapata said she has made an effort to talk with parks district officials in Pullman, but is awaiting a return phone call.

However, she said there are cities that have established a parks district when in a situation like Sunnyside's.

"Other cities focus funding on different things and our city hasn't placed a priority on parks and recreation," said Zapata, stating a voter-backed parks district would be guaranteed funding through tax dollars.

Aiken said she remembers a bond measure for the Sunnyside municipal pool passed by just one vote.

That, she said, is an indicator that voters may not see a parks district as a wise investment.

Fisher said the city of Sunnyside would not place a parks district measure on the ballot unless it is known there is strong support from the community.

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