Rocky Fork Enterprise

2014 instead of 2015

Council mulls outsourcing pool operations

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Changes at the Gahanna Swimming Pool and Hunters Ridge Pool might occur sooner than projected.

Gahanna City Council is considering a recommendation to contract out pool and concession operations to Columbus Pool Management and Cardinal Vending & Concessions, respectively, this summer.

Following the failure of the November income-tax proposal, parks and recreation director Tony Collins said he and recreation superintendent Shannon Sorrell started exploring plans for the 2015 operation of the swimming pools.

He said potential contractors for 2015 expressed an interest in submitting proposals for this season.

In the past, Collins said, proposals were received that never made sense financially.

"We were surprised the numbers came back competitive this year," he said. "It made sense to proceed."

Collins is asking council to approve a $191,000 contract with Columbus Pool Management for operations and a concessions contract with Cardinal that would require the concessionaire to pay the city 6 percent of gross revenues.

He said the net cost of contracting is expected to be $189,000 (broken out by a cost of $191,000 in expenses to Columbus Pool Management and generating revenues of $2,000 through the contract with Cardinal Vending) in 2014, whereas direct in-house operations are projected to cost $194,500.

"While it's only a small savings in cost, it's the indirect costs that make the savings," Collins said.

By contracting pool operations and concessions to other companies, he said, remaining recreation division staff will be able to focus more attention on expanding sustainable, revenue-generating operating areas.

The number of seasonal staff hired by the recreation division would decrease by approximately 80 individuals with a pool and concession contract.

Finance director Jennifer Teal said hiring and paying 80 people every summer puts a huge burden on the city's one-person payroll staff.

Collins said the contractors have indicated they would employ a majority of staff from the same pool of applicants from which the city would hire for the same positions.

He said residents should understand two points: The pools are opening this season, and contracting out the operation isn't necessarily the "silver bullet" for the city's pool problems.

"We're still talking about possible permanent solutions," Collins said. "This is a move we saw as smart business for 2014."

He said the city proposes maintaining operations at the pool's front desk and office.

"Staff will operate check-ins and membership sales," Collins said. "We'll have cash control of money coming in. Shannon will try to be out there daily. We'll have someone there on a routine basis."

He said Columbus Pool Management has a good reputation.

"We've known them for years," he said. "They ran the Plain Township pool a couple years."

Sorrell said the city has provided what's expected from the contractors.

"There's a benefit for us running the gates," she said. "It will be people who have been there in the past. Day to day, they're the people I've trusted to run them the last few years."

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