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Council seeks pool funding

POSTED June 8, 2010 11:34 p.m.

Turlock Recreation Division is looking for ways to cut expenses in an effort to be self sufficient in their funding without relying on the city’s General Fund. The first area where they recommended cuts was to the open swim program at the Pitman and Turlock high school pools.

On Tuesday, staff made a recommendation that the Turlock City Council authorize the suspension of recreation swim at the THS and Pitman pools this summer. This only included the few hours of open swim time at the two pools. The recommendation did not include swim lessons or other swim classes and programs offered by the Turlock Recreation Division, as children have already registered and paid for the classes.

Cutting recreation swim time from Pitman and Turlock high pools would save an estimated $18,000 for Turlock Recreation. Juliene Flanders, recreation superintendent, said that they would spend less money on lifeguard and aquatic teacher pay if recreation swim was cut. They would hire the same number of lifeguards, but they would work fewer hours each week.

“I don't support closing these two pools at all,” said Councilmember Mary Jackson.

Jackson expressed her concerns that closing recreation swim time would put families at risk. She said that if kids don't have a place to swim, they will find a place to swim. Jackson said that her fear was that children would try to swim in the canals and drown.

Council member Ted Howze supported the closure of recreation swim at Pitman and THS. He said that if the Recreation Division needed to make cuts, they shouldn't stop at just recreation swim. He suggested cutting all Recreation Division aquatics programs at Turlock High School and Pitman High School pools next summer.

“We should force everybody to the one pool Turlock owns,” Howze said.

Howze said that swim programs are the biggest money loser in the entire recreation department. He said that seasonal part-time employees who work for the swim programs as life guards and teachers often go on unemployment after their work term is up at the end of the summer. He said that this was an expense that the city had to pay. Howze also did not agree with Jackson's comments about the city protecting children by offering a safe place to swim. He said that the government is not a babysitter for people's kids.

“If my kids go crawling in a canal it is on me,” Howze said.

Columbia pool is owned by the City of Turlock and is maintained as part of the public parks system.

“We are responsible for our own pool,” said Councilmember Amy Bublak.

Bublak agreed that the recreation division should only offer programs at Columbia pool. She suggested that the Turlock Unified School District could help out by offering programs in their own pools.

Councilmember Jackson said that community members might help keep the open swim times available at Turlock and Pitman high schools with donations to the recreation department. Pools are scheduled to open June 21, and Jackson said that one month is not enough time to put together a fundraising effort. 

Council agreed to delay their decision on the issue until the next Turlock City Council meeting, in order to give the community time to donate funds.

To contact the Turlock Recreation Division, call 668-5594.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail agoodwin@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.

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