Fixing Something That Ain’t Broke: The City Council ‘Fixes’ The City Pool - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

Fixing Something That Ain’t Broke: The City Council ‘Fixes’ The City Pool

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Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 2:48 pm | Updated: 12:27 pm, Mon Oct 28, 2019.

Most of you are probably not aware that the city pool that many of us have enjoyed for years is about to be transformed for the worse. As a Coronado resident and former journalist and investigator, I feel duty bound to inform you of what is taking place.

The Coronado competitive youth swim club, CSA, which has trained at the BBMAC/school pool for a decade, will be given half of the lanes at the city pool five afternoons/early evenings per week. And the modestly priced swim lessons, which are the single largest money-earning for the pool, are being handed over to a private swim school company that will increase the cost almost five-fold, cause a net loss of tens of thousands of dollars for the city, and likely force the departure of the senior lifeguard instructors who depend on their extra teaching income and whose experience is crucial to water safety at the pool.

A little history: For the past ten years, there has been a formal, though not legally binding, understanding between the city/Coronado Aquatics Center and the school district/Brian Bent Memorial Aquatic Center (BBMAC) about the use of the two (non-Navy) 50-meter swimming pools on the island. When BBMAC was built, farsighted members of our community came together to delineate two distinct functions for the respective pools. The city pool would serve the general public. BBMAC, adjacent to the Coronado public schools, would serve the school’s swimming and water polo teams and other competitive youth swim activities like the several-decade old Coronado Swim Association (CSA).

That division has worked well. Residents and regular off-island public who used the city pool were content. The pool welcomed serious lap swimmers, kids taking lessons from veteran lifeguard employees trained in swimming instruction, people coming to unwind after a long day at work, and seniors enrolled in a variety of water aerobics. In the summer, there were several times the numbers using the pool, many of them visitors from Arizona, Mexico and elsewhere. County water polo meets were sometimes held there.

Unfortunately, all this is coming undone and headed to disaster because of the ill-considered decisions this year by the city council, mayor, city manager and the new head of Coronado Recreation and Golf to bring CSA swimmers full time to the city pool and to outsource lessons to the for-profit Legacy Swim Academy. Both are purportedly being done to increase pool revenue.

But two things have become clear to those of us watching this: Legacy is a big money loser for the pool; and CSA’s positive financial impact will be minimal (at best several tens of thousands of dollars in a 1.3 million dollar operating budget) and its negative impact on the general public’s use of the pool maximal.

With CSA’s move, general public swimmers will be crowded into half as much space at one of the busiest times; in the summer with many times more general public, it will be cataclysmic. Few recreational swimmers also find it enjoyable to swim anywhere near a swim team practicing, another reason for the division of labor by the pools: the coach, who is audible from a hundred meters away, is constantly barking out times, commands and instructions.

But it’s also a mistake for CSA, which has kept its numbers up because all its swimmers are Coronado students who have one of the finest swimming pools in the world literally attached to their school. Kids who could make their way by themselves to and from BBMAC now have to be dropped off and picked up by parents. (My daughter swam with CSA during her years at the middle and high school.) Meanwhile, at the city pool, among other deficits, there are no racing blocks to practice starting dives and no flag markers overhead for backstrokers on the 25-meter set-up, and it is not possible to hold competitions there because one end of the pool is too shallow. Two former CSA coaches and the former coach of the high school water polo team called CSA’s move to the city pool “wacky… a good way to kill CSA… the stupidest decision I’ve ever heard.” The move has been motivated by the new president of CSA, who was irate because BBMAC raised its lane rental rates during the past two years. But BBMAC’s lane rates are still about half of the average in the entire county and probably the second lowest after the city pool, which has not raised its rates since 2009.

Bringing in Legacy Swim Academy (improperly if not illegally absent competitive bidding for the space) will lose money for the pool. Do the math. Currently, the pool grosses $110,000 per year from its swim lessons and nets an estimated $75,000. The contract offered by Legacy and accepted by the city has Legacy paying the pool $45,000 in total, for a net loss to the pool of $30,000. City councilors and the Rec and Golf head only seem capable of favorable addition, citing the gain of $45,000 in reply to my inquiries, but not the subtraction of $75,000.

Legacy will also mean the loss of necessary income for about ten senior lifeguards at the pool and their likely departure to other pools. Those lifeguards are critical to the ongoing training of short-term lifeguards and they coordinate the work when the pool coordinators go home.

Legacy will charge $25 per 1/2-hour group lesson; the current cost from the city is $5.50. A smiling Legacy CEO, whose company will make hundreds of thousands of dollars in the deal, told me, “It’s not my problem if the city decided what they did.”

Indeed, the problem lies with our elected representatives, the city manager and the new head of Rec and Golf (who is a golf expert and a sweet fellow, but admits to knowing nothing about running a pool). None of them has given a public explanation of their decisions, despite being asked repeatedly, and the city council has allowed no proper public give-and-take about it. Their answers to me by email have studiously avoided the questions I’ve raised here and stressed that they are doing nothing illegal in ending the ten-year agreement between the two pools.

Most maddeningly, in all the internal deliberations that City representatives and the Rec and Golf head claim to have made on this, they have apparently not recognized the easiest, most obvious and least destructive way to actually make a good deal of money for the pool: Raise the price of the current swim lessons.

If to the still-reasonable $10 (still only 40% of the Legacy price), the pool earns another $100,000, almost all of it net, for an overall gain from the Legacy option of $130,000, and a net total for their own swim lessons of $175,000. The latter is $120,000 more than CSA will bring and with none of the accompanying problems for CSA or current users of the pool. Go figure….

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Welcome to the discussion.

8 comments:

  • Fraudhound posted at 10:21 pm on Fri, Oct 25, 2019.

    Fraudhound Posts: 0

    Dear Coronado Eagle: Excellent article on the city council and the city pool.

    I am a regular swimmer at the pool, and I am very concerned about the changes the article describes. I can already see the changes having negative consequences for swimmers. When I looked at the pool schedule for the last week in October, I saw that there is going to be a water polo event and that part of the pool will be closed. That’s fine. What upsets me is that the Coronado Swim Association is already getting priority over general public users in the remaining lanes. To me, this is a sign of things to come, and it sure doesn’t bode well for the summer time. Are we going to have to swim five to a lane because a team that has long swum at the school pool is now able to move to the community pool because the team president has temper tantrums and can't handle the reality that prices have to go up at some point?

    Why was the cooperative ten-year arrangement between the two pools, between the city and the school district tossed in the trash when it worked just fine?

    The other part of the article was also troubling. Changing providers from the city staff at the pool to a company that is going to charge parents five times more for swimming lessons, while losing money for the city, reminds me of the old saying: Follow the money. Is someone on the city side benefitting from this suspicious, nonsensical arrangement? Let’s find out.

     
  • Fraudhound posted at 10:04 pm on Fri, Oct 25, 2019.

    Fraudhound Posts: 0

    Dear Coronado Eagle: Excellent article on the city council and the city pool.

    I am a regular swimmer at the pool, and I am very concerned about the changes the article describes. I can already see the changes having negative consequences for swimmers. When I looked at the pool schedule for the last week in October, I saw that there is going to be a water polo event and that part of the pool will be closed. That’s fine. What upsets me is that the Coronado Swim Association is already getting priority over general public users in the remaining lanes. To me, this is a sign of things to come, and it sure doesn’t bode well for the summer time. Are we going to have to swim five to a lane because a team that has long swum at the school pool is now able to move to the community pool because the team president has temper tantrums and can't handle the reality that prices have to go up at some point?

    Why was the cooperative ten-year arrangement between the two pools, between the city and the school district tossed in the trash when it worked just fine?

    The other part of the article was also troubling. Changing providers from the city staff at the pool to a company that is going to charge parents five times more for swimming lessons, while losing money for the city, reminds me of the old saying: Follow the money. Is someone on the city side benefitting from this suspicious, nonsensical arrangement? Whose pocket are you and your cronies in, Bailey? Let’s find out.

     
  • nadofan posted at 7:25 pm on Fri, Oct 25, 2019.

    nadofan Posts: 0

    Fixing something that ain’t broke” was an informative commentary on how our city council is itself broken. Like much of our government today, our council make decisions and feels no obligation to explain what they are doing and why. (Not even a Tweet like our current president!) I know any number of people who have tried to question decisions by the council and heard endless stories of frustration. When and where I was growing up (rural Pennsylvania), we had town meetings and I can remember how lively and fun they were. Even we children would go. People were involved. My recollection is that they were held at night, perhaps even on the weekend, so everyone could go. Today, elected officials think that after they are elected they should do whatever they want. Perhaps part of it is our fault, we are too busy to be civic-minded and many people don’t even bother to vote. How many other things have been decided that haven’t had any light shed on them? You should send Mr. Neesen out to investigate more often. Thank you, Eagle.

     
  • GreatLakesMom posted at 5:10 pm on Fri, Oct 25, 2019.

    GreatLakesMom Posts: 0

    I am not someone who usually expresses herself in a public forum especially in a critical way. But I think it is important. I agree with most of the comments and the article. I have a pretty good knowledge of why CSA moved to BBMAC and I think I should say something and hope that it does a bit of good. I was a CSA parent for many years but no longer and I have to say that at the end I was quite upset with the people running CSA. We have lived all over the United States and my kids were avid swimmers. In the BBMAC we had the best pool the kids ever swam at. Who ever heard of a 50m pool for a high school swimmers. I know CSA had the pick of the pool, sharing only with water polo most of the year. It seemed very understandable to we parents that BBMAC should pass on some of the increased costs they had during the years my kids were involved. Prices go up, like anything. We parents got that. But others associated with CSA thought we should have been treated in a special way and were not gracious at all. They thought we could get a better deal on the base, even breaking a contract with the BBMAC because CSA was supposedly to blame. That led to the BBMAC signing up a team from outside Coronado to take the place of CSA. The arrangement with the base did not get the approval of the people in charge there. CSA continued at the BBMAC and we were sharing pool time with the new team for the first time. It was entirely the fault of the leadership of CSA. CSA should have accepted that we had to pay the slightly higher cost of BBMAC. I'm sure you have a lot of CSA parents who are unhappy with being at the other pool but many of them were probably told that BBMAC was to blame. Most parents had no involvement in any of this and didn't have any awareness of all this going on, but that is what took place. (Under Coach Emmet this never would have gone on.) To me the moral of the whole story was what I always taught my kids and what my parents taught me and my brothers and what our faith continues to teach us. Be content with what you have because others have less. Being greedy will not benefit you but cause trouble in your own House. (Proverbs)

     
  • NadoMom3 posted at 11:23 am on Fri, Oct 25, 2019.

    NadoMom3 Posts: 0

    I am saddened to hear that Legacy is taking over swim lessons at the community pool. My kids have taken lessons with Legacy at BBMAC and from the lifeguards at the community pool and honestly comparing the group lessons offered by both the community pool lessons taught by lifeguards were better and more beneficial for my kids. Having the option in price on the island was amazing too, $25 for a 1/2 hour can become cost prohibitive for some families.

    My kids have been part of both CSA and the swim club currently at the BBMAC, SDSA, it doesn't make sense to have a swim team using a pool that doesn't have blocks, and doesn't have the time to allow them to have more than one practice option a day.

    As a community center member that uses the pool, adding CSA to the evenings has taken something away from the community center as a whole. It is no longer an enjoyable place to relax by the pool or swim laps in the evenings.

     
  • Elsbeth posted at 2:19 pm on Thu, Oct 24, 2019.

    Elsbeth Posts: 0

    As a former proud CSA parent, I echo the commentary from William Nesson and the comments from the former coaches. As Mr. Nesson pointed out, the city’s pool doesn’t have what you need to train properly.

    Not only is BBMAC a great facility with great people running it (I assume they are still there) it was also the greatest ease on my mind and my busy schedule as a parent with three children (and a husband often overseas). My eldest would go over to the pool when school got out, do her homework until practice started and then came a few blocks home.

    Someone is not thinking this through, neither those now in charge of CSA or those in the city who are apparently facilitating it. You have CSA competing with Coronado parents for swimming space at the city’s Aquatics Center instead of having them practice at a place dedicated to competition. If there is another team practicing at the BBMAC, that is where I will be sending my boys.

     
  • Adam Link posted at 12:49 pm on Thu, Oct 24, 2019.

    Adam Link Posts: 0

    Dear Eagle - I am writing in response to the article in the paper about the city pool. I am all in favor of change when it makes sense. My two girls have taken lessons at the pool and they loved them. Losing those instructors and charging us in effect twice for swim lessons seems to make no sense. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the pool funded by our taxes, which have kept prices low? I am all in favor of trying to make more money for the pool, but it seems just the opposite is taking place. City Council: please explain yourselves.

     
  • Nobelryder posted at 11:10 pm on Wed, Oct 23, 2019.

    Nobelryder Posts: 0

    Thank you Mr. Nessen for your informative investigative reporting, it is resounding.

    I have been a patron of the Coronado Aquatic Center for a while and yes these decisions have affected me, I am considering leaving due to this obstacle...

    Since the schedule change I have had to change or limit my swim time due to the CSA competitive swim. They use two lanes now, it is boisterous and they use the locker room which I thought was not supposed to happen. I tend to swim MWF at night at a minimum, now later at night than before. .

    I do believe the younger competitive swim teams should be in their realm and at BBMAC, you are right about more traffic now, limited resources for the team, etc., not the best idea.

    Lesson should be affordable for all involved, not a corporate entity to make money. I am in favor for affordable swim lessons for all, something seems out of line here.

    There is an agenda here...serious underlying ethics going on here it seems.

    Will I be able to use the BBMAC when the Aquatic center closes for the month of November? NO

    (cooperation? one way it seems)

    I hope for more public input concerning...Not happy with the current situation. then again I am a patron at their mercy.