Next summer, it will be quiet at the Bainbridge, GA, city pool, as the city government’s proposed 2015-2016 fiscal year budget doesn’t include money to operate the pool and the cost of needed repairs.
At a public hearing held by the Bainbridge City Council, City Manager Chris Hobby explained the budget was drafted without funding the city pool because attendance was down and a number of repairs needed to be made to keep the pool operational.
This past summer, the Bainbridge Aquatic Center only averaged about 35 visitors on the days it was open, according to Hobby. The aquatic center features a full-size pool, a kids’ pool, a water slide and a couple of water play features. The center costs about $99,000 per year to operate, including the cost of pool chemicals, concessions, utilities and paying seasonal lifeguards.
The city manager said statistics show the city pool’s popularity has been declining for several years, which he believes is due to a variety of factors, including the fact that students’ summer breaks are shorter. That also results in lower revenue for the city pool, despite opening up on Saturdays and Sundays. This past summer, one-day admission rates were $5 per person, although unlimited-visit seasonal passes were also available for $215 and there were also special party rates.
Bainbridge Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer asked City Manager Hobby if anything could be done to keep the pool open for next year, or at least convert the pool to a splash pad, which is basically putting water play elements on top of concrete.
Assistant City Manager Roy Oliver detailed the severity of the aquatic center’s condition and said current estimates of needed repairs total $100,000.
The children’s pool needs plaster work and there are filter and electrical problems in the utility house, Oliver said. There are problems with the water play elements, as well: the motors that power a mushroom-shaped waterfall were “touch-and-go” last summer, the water “curtain” stopped working altogether and Bainbridge Leisure Services had to pay $12,000 to replace the pump on the water slide.
City Manager Hobby said that despite plans to close the pool, city staff would like to retrofit the aquatic center into a splash pad that could be maintained much less expensively. He said that once ready, the splash pad would not require an admission fee and there would not be a requirement to employ lifeguards. However, Hobby said he couldn’t promise that the splash pad would be ready next summer.
Councilwoman Glennie Bench suggested that in lieu of funding the aquatic center, perhaps the City of Bainbridge could consider supporting the Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA’s pool as an alternative.
Mayor Edward Reynolds said perhaps the city government could work out a deal with the YMCA to make swimming lessons affordable to a wide range of people.