Sharing the aquatic center

Posted 9/7/10

The center's two pools remain open during practice times, with at least two lanes always available to public swimmers in the eight-lane pool. During competitive meets, the facility closes to public swimmers.

Carrie Parmer, city aquatics director, …

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Sharing the aquatic center


{gallery}09_02_10/pool{/gallery}PHS senior Maddy Jones heads for the finish and a state qualifying time in the individual medley at the Powell Aquatic Center last week. The Lady Panthers dual with Buffalo was the first varsity competition in the new pool, which will host the annual Gene Dozah Invitational on Sept. 11. Tribune photo by Don Amend City signs agreements with school district, swim clubThe community-shared water of the Powell Aquatic Center takes in a variety of swimmers — from competitive teens to exercising adults to playful toddlers. To accommodate the needs of swimmers sharing the facility, the city of Powell recently signed agreements with Park County School District No. 1 and the Powell Swim Club.Both groups need lanes for team practices and, several times a year, will host swim meets at the aquatic center.

The center's two pools remain open during practice times, with at least two lanes always available to public swimmers in the eight-lane pool. During competitive meets, the facility closes to public swimmers.

Carrie Parmer, city aquatics director, said she is pleased with the one-year agreements, which are a starting point during the pool's first year of operations. The staff is in an information-gathering phase to determine usage numbers, she noted.

“Everyone is working to have the best possible arrangements,” Parmer said.

School district

The school district will pay roughly $67,400 for its use of the city of Powell's Aquatic Center this year.

The contract, which runs through July 1, 2011, covers everything from Powell High School and middle school swim team meets to practices and physical education classes.

The Powell City Council approved the $67,401.69 agreement at its Aug. 16 meeting after several months of negotiation between City Administrator Zane Logan and school district leaders.

“It's such a weird number you think I'd have to make it up,” quipped Logan.

In reality, it's a number calculated on usage of the pool at a rate of $8 per lane per hour. During the most popular prime times, such as immediately after school, the school district is being charged $12 an hour. It assumes roughly 1,500 hours of use by the school district.

The city proposed the lane rental fees, said Mary Jo Lewis, coordinator of business services for the school district.

“We didn't negotiate rates differently,” she said.

The agreement allows the school district to use six of the pool's eight lanes during afternoon swim team practices and four lanes during morning practices.

The school's physical education programs similarly will be allowed a maximum of six lanes.

“We tried really hard in all the agreements not to give up the whole pool at a time,” said Councilman John Wetzel, citing the importance of always having lanes for public swimmers.

According to the contract, the district must pay $125 per hour during swim meets, which take up the entire pool.

Noting that the city is only estimating what actual costs will be in the aquatic center's first year of operations, Logan said the contract amount was just a starting point.

As an example, if it turns out that swim meets require “excessive” clean up afterwards, that data will be collected and used to calculate next year's agreement.

“We've got to start somewhere,” Logan said.

The school district previously spent about $140,000 per year when it operated the now-demolished Powell Natatorium.

A large part of that cost was for utilities and upkeep for the entire building, which included the pool, auditorium and classrooms. The $140,000 also went toward custodial and maintenance costs as well as supplies, such as chemicals for the pool, Lewis said.

“The school district operated the pool from its general fund with no revenue from outside entities,” Lewis noted.

The district provided $322,000 toward construction of the Powell Aquatic Center and also contributed in-kind donations, she said.

The new pool was constructed with funds generated from a countywide 1-cent sales tax and other contributions following the Wyoming School Facilities Commission's decision to close the old Powell High School pool.

The commission determined it could not build swimming pools, because the state could not afford to build one in every school in Wyoming, nor could it afford to maintain them.

The old Powell pool was in need of major renovation and was “limping along” in its last days, Lewis said, but in recent years the state did not provide maintenance funds. The school district used money from its general fund to keep the old pool open until the new pool was finished, she said.

With money saved from no longer maintaining the old pool, the district is able to put those funds to “meet goals that the board has set in its strategic plan,” Lewis said.

That includes equipment purchases, software and other operational needs.

The Lady Panthers hosted their first meet at the new aquatic center on Saturday. Following the meet, the pool opened to public swimmers for about four hours, said Angela Wilson, aquatic coordinator at the center.

“Everything went really well last weekend,” she said.

Powell Swim Club

A nonprofit group governed by a volunteer board of directors, the Powell Swim Club consists of competitive swimmers of various ages, from elementary-school-aged children to adults, and operates year-round. The club's swimmers, who compete against other USA Swim teams in the region, previously used the old Powell High School pool free of charge.

During agreement negotiations with the city, board member Karrie Tracy said swim club leaders looked at “how to meet what we knew was necessary — paying for water time — but also how to keep it affordable for families.”

Under the one-year agreement, every swim club member is required to purchase a membership to the Powell Aquatic Center.

To cover lane rentals and allow the coach to be on deck, the club must also pay a 75-cent fee per “splash” — defined as a single swimmer using the pool in a practice session, according to the agreement.

The city bills the swim club monthly, based on the total number of “splashes” — swimmers and practices in a given month, said swim club coach Jerry Rodriguez.

So far, that has amounted to about $300 a month this summer, Tracy said.

The number of swimmers practicing this summer was about one-third of what it was during the winter season, Rodriguez said. In the winter, the club welcomes about 65-70 swimmers, but it's been as high as 80, he said.

“It just depends on the year,” Rodriguez said.

The club begins its winter session Sept. 7 and will practice from 6-8 p.m. each weeknight. During practice sessions, the club occupies four to six lanes of the eight-lane pool, depending on the number of swimmers.

Two lanes always are open to public lap swimmers, Rodriguez said.

To cover costs under the new agreement, the club increased its monthly dues for swimmers by $5 for beginners and $8 for intermediate and advanced swimmers.

The cost increase varies, depending on which type of aquatic center membership a swimmer purchases and which practice group he/she participates in, Tracy said.

Swimmers are only billed for months when they attend two or more practices.

Assuming 12-month participation, the increase above previous fees ranges from:

• $110 per year for a beginner swimmer, including $50 per student under a family aquatic membership plus a $60 annual (or $5 per month) increase in dues.

• $196 per year for an advanced swimmer, including a $100 student aquatic membership plus a $96 annual (or $8 per month) increase in dues.

Swimmers can be billed for their aquatic center membership monthly rather than paying the annual fee all at once, Tracy noted. For example, a student membership at the aquatic center costs $100, or $8.33 per month.

Tracy said swim club families also must pay meet entry fees (ranging from $10-$25 per meet) as well as travel, lodging and meal expenses for out-of-town meets.

Asked about the agreement that requires additional payment for use of the facility, Rodriguez said, “We knew it was coming, but we're hoping it won't limit the number of kids on the team.”

He said the city was “pretty generous with us” and added that some councilmen have been strong advocates of the swim club.

He noted that the club has scholarships available for swimmers who need assistance.

The club must also pay $125 per hour for swim meets it hosts at the aquatic center, the same rate the school district pays.

Each year, the local club hosts three to four swim meets.

Its first meet in the aquatic center went well in July, club leaders said.

“We had a fantastic meet — fantastic,” Teri Oursler, with the swim club, told city councilmen.

She said out-of-town swimmers enjoyed the new facility, and the meet went on without any problems.

“We have absolutely no complaints about the way it was run,” she said.

Northwest College

This semester, some Northwest College students report to the aquatic center for class.

The college is offering seven classes at the pool this fall, including beginning and intermediate swimming, swimnastics and aquatic aerobics.

A $30 student fee for each course — consisting of 14 class periods — goes to the aquatic center for use of the lanes, said Floyd Young, chairperson for the Life and Health Science and Agriculture Division at the college. Young also is a city councilman.

Depending on the number of students, classes will use only two to three lanes.

If eight students use two lanes over the course of a seven-week class, the city receives $240 — breaking down to about $8 per lane for a 50-minute class period.

“We tried to calculate it so it would be fair,” Young said.

The college also will pay instructors through the aquatic center to teach certain courses.

For a half-credit course, NWC will pay instructors $468 and $625 for a one-credit class.

Aquatics Director Carrie Parmer is scheduled to teach some of the NWC courses this semester, and she said instructors' compensation goes into the pool's general fund.

With only a handful of classes offered at non-peak times, the college does not need to enter into a formal agreement with the city at this time, Young said.

He said if the college's Student Senate decides to provide a certain number of student memberships to the aquatic center, they could pursue an arrangement with the city.

Young said NWC could add other pool-related courses, such as scuba, and he hopes more students become involved with classes at the center.

Parmer said health-care organizations or other entities also might enter into agreements down the road for use of the aquatic center.