August 5, 2009 in City

Swim budget drying up

Holmberg pool could be closed next summer
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

Brandee Elmore cools off with her daughter Stella, 4, at Holmberg pool on Tuesday. The county may close Holmberg pool next year to balance the Parks Department’s budget.
(Full-size photo)

Spokane County may close Holmberg Park swimming pool next year because of budget problems.

The pool, which is the county park system’s oldest, has the lowest attendance and the highest cost per swimmer, and is the farthest away from recovering its costs from swimming fees, Parks Director Doug Chase told county commissioners Tuesday. The pool, a basic tank with racing lanes, is more than 40 years old and doesn’t have amenities such as splash pads or slides, Chase said. More than half of the pool’s attendance comes from swimming lessons.

With the county facing a $12.5 million gap between projected revenues and expenses, departments are being told to cover their costs, and that will be difficult if Holmberg remains open, he said. “It’s just not cost-effective.”

Commissioner Bonnie Mager argued that recovering all costs should not be the only factor in keeping a pool open, because there’s a benefit to improving residents’ lives by teaching them to swim.

“Are we at cost recovery yet with the golf courses?” she asked. When Chase replied that county-run golf courses were coming closer to covering their maintenance and operations costs, Mager said that sounded like a diplomatic way of saying no.

County pools in general are bringing in less money this year than last, in part because the city is opening new pools and splash pads, and the city’s rates are much cheaper. Holmberg charges $2 per person for ages 6 and older; the newer pools, like Northside and Southside, charge 3- to 6-year-olds $3 and everyone older $6.

City pools charge $1 for swimmers younger than 18 and $2 for everyone else.

“This is a competitive issue here,” county Chief Executive Officer Marshall Farnell said. “Next year we need to look at our rates.”

A final decision on whether to close Holmberg Pool will be up to the commissioners, Chase said.

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