Pools costly for local communities

Swimming pools are an expensive undertaking for municipalities.

In 2010 Monticello Family Aquatic Center issued $3 million worth of bonds to pay for their center which features a 5,000 square feet  bathhouse building with full basement for water filtration, treatment, recirculation, equipment and storage, 5,750 square feet main pool, diving boards, water slide, a 2,400 square foot zero-depth pool with 16 water features, lounge chairs, locker rooms, and a concession stand.

Recently, area residents wondered on social media why St. Joseph doesn’t have a swimming pool.

The answer is simple said Mayor B.J. Hackler. Finances.

Hackler said that years ago the village had a study done by a class studying village planning at the University of Illinois.

“Their number one recommendation was that we not build a pool,” he said. “It is not self supporting.”

Trustee Tami Fruhling-Voges said she understood there was community support for the project but the costs would seem to be prohibitive.

“The cost to install a pool would be very costly,” she said.

Fruhling-Voges said she estimated a simple pool would cost a million or more by the time the village did the prep work for the site, the pool it self and some kind of pool house with a concession stand.

Fruhling-Voges said that municipal pools rarely break even and are often subsidized by the village  even after the village pays to install the pool.

“Not only would you have the maintenance, but liability, chemical costs, employees to hire,” she said. “I wouldn’t even want to speculate what that cost would be to the Village.”

Tuscola, with a population of 4,465 is comparable in size to St. Joseph with a population of 4,058.

Tuscola’s pool was built in 1957 but within the last five years has undergone a $350,000 renovation in order to comply with federal law and for mechanical repairs on the pool.

Drew Hoel, Tuscola City Administrator, said their pool is funded by daily admissions, concessions, season passes and swimming lessons. That revenue accounts for 60 percent of the pool’s operating budget. The remainder and any capital expenses are funded by other tax dollars.

“We have had mechanical problems the last few years, so our costs have been higher than what we would normally expect,” Hoel said. “That said, revenues were short of expenditures by about $55,000 last year and have budgeted for a $50,000 loss this year.”

Despite the cost to the city, Hoel said he does understand why community pools are important to residents.

“I hear a lot of people talking about the “nostalgia” of the pool - many remember spending a substantial portion of their childhood at our pool and want the same opportunity for their children. It is also something of a social center in the summertime for school children who might not otherwise see their friends in the summer. It’s also an employment opportunity for a large number of high school students,” he said.

Farmer City with a population of 2,025 also has a pool that features a baby pool, toddler pool and a full sized pool with a diving board.

Bement with a population of 1,694 also has a pool that features a baby pool, toddler pool and a full sized pool with a diving board.

Homer does not have a pool but the issue has been raised before.

In 1966 Homer looked into funding a community pool.

The issue was put before the voters and it was turned down because of the increased taxes that would be required, said Mayor Ray Cunningham.

“Today I do believe that residents are aware of the cost of a pool and the taxes that would be required to fund such a venture,” he said. “The residents were aware of the cost of the village hall and many were opposed to the purchase. While Homer today could potentially build a community pool it probably would not be the wisest use of taxpayer money.”

Cunningham said while Homer could potentially build a pool he would be hesitant to do so in this economic climate.

“I believe that putting too much money into a project that is not self-supporting carries risks particularly at this time of reduced state spending,” Cunningham said. “Communities should plan carefully and be sure of the continued funding of facilities such as pools and other recreational ventures.”

Homer installed a water feature at the community park.

“The water park has been a great success for Homer,” Cunningham said. “We have seen that facility grow in use and it is the one area we hear the most compliments about from people with younger children.”

Fruhling-Voges said she was concerned that money that could be spent on a pool should go towards other things.

“Between infrastructure improvements, sidewalk repairs and additions, and other things that the

Village residents take for granted, our budget has little wiggle room,” she said. “With our investments, we try to use them wisely for improvements that will have the biggest impact for our residents.”

Fruhling-Voges said residents often do not realize that the village receives one of the smaller portions of property taxes collected.

On a tax bill of $3,000, the village receives $177.

“They need to look at their tax bill and see that the Village’s portion is not very much,” she said. “In this economic climate, a pool would be a total luxury and one that I think most communities would have a hard time to justify.  Even if you were able to get a grant, it’s still taxpayers money that should be used for more pressing things that in my opinion are a higher priority.”

Categories (2):News, Parks and Recreation


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UdyRegan wrote on July 25, 2016 at 2:07 am

The maintenance part does seem a little costly to undertake but if costs are structured properly to be channelled from the correct sources, I think the overall financial course is not impossible to get under control.

Linnea wrote on September 20, 2016 at 9:09 am

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post

StephenGiderson wrote on February 10, 2018 at 1:02 am
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I don't see how moving the whole storage facility could be cheaper, but it sounds like these guys have done their figures before deciding that it was the best course of action. Let's just hope that after this big move, that refurbishing and finishing the storage facility on its new grounds was just as cost efficient as they thought it would be! 

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