Mexico Parks Board recommends flat fee for pool use

Board recommends flat fee for pool use
Crews break ground on the new Parks Department pool in the summer of 2020. Work is on schedule for the pool to open on Memorial Day weekend. [Nathan Lilley]
By: 
Dave Faries
Editor

In a rare January meeting, the Mexico Parks Department’s Board of Directors took up the question of the entry fee to be charged once the new pool facility opens later this year.

Parks Department director Chad Shoemaker and recreation supervisor Brooke Jameson advocated for a $5 fee per person, with children three and under getting in for free. After some discussion, the board voted 5-0, with one abstention, to send this recommendation to the City Council.

The meeting was a holdover from December, when a quorum failed to appear. Shoemaker pushed for a January meeting to reach a recommended entry fee because all other rates – from pavilion rental to concessions to multi-use discounts – follow from this fee.

Shoemaker and Jameson reached the $5 figure after surveying fee structures at eight community pools in similar service areas. They came up with an average of $5.12. The high was $10 at Chillicothe, which has more waterpark features. Centralia charged $3.50 at a smaller facility.

The amounts are from the summer of 2019, since COVID-19 shuttered pools this past year.

Mexico’s pool previously charged a sliding fee scale with $4 for adults. The board agreed after a brief debate in a flat rate.

“It makes it a lot easier if everyone comes in at a set price,” Shoemaker said, citing time spent at the counter checking on student or age status, among other reasons.

The fees are meant to offset expenses, such as payroll for lifeguards and those working the counter, utilities and maintenance. Shoemaker was careful to note that the department does not want to be at odds with what the public can afford.

“We’re not trying to make a profit,” he pointed out.

The pool has a warranty for the first year and partial coverage for the second. Shoemaker explained that after the first two years, pool attendance tends to dwindle. Meanwhile the cost of upkeep increases.
So the equation used to set a fee to offset costs can be tricky.

Board member Terry Henage questioned if they should send a recommended range of $5 to $7 to the council, stating a concern that the flat rate may not be enough to keep pace with the expense of running a municipal pool.

Shoemaker pointed out that even though no one knows what the summer of 2021 will be bring, considering the ongoing pandemic, the budget should hold up for several years.

“When we get to year 10, we’ll need to be in a position to renovate,” said. “If our finances get to the point that rates need to be raised, I’ll go back to the council.”

He added that the department hopes to operate a fundraiser to add a water slide after two or three years.

Discounted passes will still be available. The board introduced plans to do away with family passes and add different multi-use tiers.

Jameson noted that other pools were doing away with family passes and going to individual vouchers. The Mexico board is looking at something in between – cards that can be used for several people of a guest’s choosing, for example.

“We find the most success with multi-use discounts rather than family passes,” she said.

The matter of discount passes, expanded swimming class options and other issues will come before the board in future meetings.

The pool remains on track to open on Memorial Day weekend.

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