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City Council Approves $75,000 Additional for Aquatic Center Operations

February 22, 2021
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City News PlymouthApproximately 20 people attended the Plymouth Common Council meeting online and 3 people came to the meeting in person Monday evening with most of them interested in the additional appropriation hearing for the aquatic center.

The City Council heard the additional appropriation requests of $150,000 for the aquatic center and $315,000 for the historic footbridge project.

City Clerk Treasurer Jeanine Xaver said the foot bridge has a cash balance of $787,000 and the request is to appropriate $315,000.  The appropriation will cover the supplemental contract with VS Engineering of $29,200 that was recently approved and the remainder will be toward the construction phase which is anticipated to begin later this year.

The $150,000 additional appropriation request is for the aquatic center.  It was officially listed in the legal ad as a capital outlay.  Councilman Greg Compton said he thought the additional should have been advertised as operating costs.  He also asked if it was the city’s responsibility to pay the expenses to operate the pool, and if the Plymouth School Corporation or Ancilla College have been asked for additional assistance in keeping the doors open.

City Attorney Sean Surrisi said it wasn’t the city’s responsibility to pay operating costs for the pool and that they haven’t approached the other two entities that help pay the bond payment.

Compton initially said they should table the additional request and talk to the school and college.  Eventually he said he would agree to $15,000 to keep the pool open through April and take to the school and college.

Councilman Jeff Houin clarified that if the council approved the full additional appropriation request for the pool, they wouldn’t spend it until it was determined how the funds would be spent.

Councilman Duane Culp asked if a manager for the pool was found would the funds from the additional stay with the pool for the new manager.  He also said there are lots of unknowns.

The city attorney said anything is on the table.  He said he didn’t think it was going to be easy locating someone interested in a contract to operate the pool.

Councilman Robert Listenberger has been working on this issue with council Don Ecker for a couple of months.  He really wanted to have the full amount appropriated so the council doesn’t have to keep worrying about funds and can work on a long-term solution.

Councilman Randy Longanecker wanted to know who is running the pool, what the hours of operation are, what employees are paid and who volunteers, who handles the equipment at the center, who is the certified operator and how they promote the pool and activities happening at the pool.

Councilwoman Shiloh Milner said this is a tough decision.  She also said if the full amount was appropriated the school and college may feel the city has funds for the daily operations and not be willing to help.

Speaking in favor of the pool was Leann Senter who is volunteering her time operating the pool.  She said the pool and swimming is her passion.  She also said they’ve sold between 15 to 20 memberships, about 25 other people who are regular swimmers, 12 mermaids from Michigan who come to swim, the about 40 to 50 members of the Shark Swim Club, about 48 members of the Plymouth High School Swim Team, a scuba class every other month along with pool birthday parties as means of income.

Joe Martin Jr. spoke in favor of the additional appropriation and said COVID in 2020 hurt to pool.  He also said he had a child that started swimming at the age of 10 and continued through high school.  He said the school should be teaching younger children to swim as one of life’s lessons.

Mayor Senter spoke about the economic impact the pool has on the community.  He said swim meets could bring in up to 500 people for a 2-day event.  Some of those people will stay in our hotels and many will eat at our restaurants and even do some shopping in our stores.

Ryan Schafer said finding a manager for the pool will be a difficult nut to crack.  Especially not that we know the pool is currently operating at a monthly deficit or about $15,000.  He also said competition pools typically recover only 40 to 50% of their operating costs.

All-in-all, everyone wants to see the pool open and citizens using it.  No one spoke of shutting the doors and letting it sit.

After additional discussion Council Greg Compton motioned to approve the footbridge additional at $315,000 and the pool at $50,000.  The motion was seconded by Jeff Houin who wanted additional discussion.  Compton’s motion was eventually amended to approve the $315,000 for the bridge and $75,000 for the pool.  The motion to amend the motion passed by a 5 to 1 vote with Compton voting no on the amendment.  The council then voted on the amended motion to approve the $315,00 for the footbridge and $75,000 for the pool and all six members attending the meeting voted in favor.  Councilman Don Ecker was absent from the meeting.

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