Money woes take toll at Seabrook pool
With the budget deficit hitting hard in Seabrook, the impact is even affecting the tradition of wet summer fun at the pool.
When Seabrook's swimming pool opened last week, patrons discovered that it is open one less day per week, has reduced daily hours and fewer lifeguards.
It's not fun at all," Seabrook City Manager Chuck Pinto said.
Seabrook's pool is open Tuesday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., said David Hyde, the city's parks and recreation director. In years past, it had only been closed on Mondays and had longer daily hours.
This year, the pool has 12 lifeguards and four cashiers, Hyde said. In previous years, it normally had 18 lifeguards, six to seven cashiers and three to four game attendants, he said.
The changes were made just a few months ago and are saving Seabrook approximately $25,000, Hyde said. The city had to cut $250,000 out of its current budget and faces a deficit of from $400,000 to $500,000 for the 2010-11 fiscal year, Pinto said.
The deficit stems from lost sales-tax revenue from businesses destroyed by Hurricane Ike and the sluggish economy, he said.
Seabrook's budget woes are so dire that Hyde's job is being eliminated in September. Hyde said there has been a lot of negative feedback" from residents about the pool's reductions, but Pinto said there hasn't been an uproar.
This is not something where we're like, We'll just cut it and we don't care what they think,'" Pinto said. It's one of those things if we start getting huge feedback that's legitimate, we'll do some adjusting there."
And while Seabrook's pool is open this summer, its future isn't guaranteed, Pinto said. It is costing $40,000 to $50,000 to operate this year, Hyde said.
Next year do we even want to open it or not?" Pinto said. I don't think it'll get to that point, but we'll put it on the table."
The Clear Lake City Community Association closed its two pools in the Oakbrook West subdivision this year and turned them over to the Aquastar swim team as part of a 10-year lease.
But with the association's average homeowner's fees only $70 per year, the struggling economy wasn't as much of a factor in leasing the Oakbrook West pools to Aquastar, said Leslie Alvarez, the association's general manager.
The economy is hurting us, but I don't think it's hurting us as bad as other organizations because we're already so low," Alvarez said.
The Clear Lake City association still operates eight pools at three locations, but decided to turn over the Oakbrook West pools because they had the least amount of use, Alvarez said. Those pools sometimes didn't have a single patron for hours at a time, she said.
Clear Lake Shores, El Lago and Friendswood all have not reduced the operating schedule or staff for their swimming pools this year, city officials said.
To take those things away from kids, I don't think that would be appropriate," Friendswood Mayor David Smith said.
But area city pools have closed in the past. Webster closed its several years ago because the cost of a new swimming pool would have been pricey, Mayor Floyd Myers said.
It was losing money," Myers said. The cost of the pool to the Webster taxpayers would have been excessive."
Alvarez, however, said associations and cities should carefully consider any budget cuts to pools.
That is the absolute worst place," she said. In a tough economic times, families are staying closer to home and they need more economical options for recreation because they can't afford to go on that Disney World vacation."
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