Rocky Fork Enterprise

Recreation versus resources

Leaders wading through options for pools

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Gahanna leaders are exploring ways to continue to offer safe pools and enjoyable for residents while planning for a sustainable financial future.

Parks and recreation director Tony Collins is expected to provide information to Gahanna City Council on Aug. 25 regarding the past, present and possible future operations of the pools.

Residents are invited to attend the committee meeting, Collins said, but a public-involvement meeting will be scheduled for September at a time, date and location to be determined.

The city outsourced pool and concession operations to Columbus Pool Management and Cardinal Vending & Concessions, respectively, this summer at Gahanna Swimming Pool and Hunters Ridge Pool.

At that time, Collins said, outsourcing wasn't necessarily the "silver bullet" for the city's pool problems.

The city wasn't planning to reopen the pools in 2015, but several residents have expressed concerns about the planned closures.

In a report to council, Collins said he's pleased that the parks and recreation department has assisted the community by providing pool opportunities for residents over the past 12 years.

Gahanna was asked to assume ownership and operations of the Hunters Ridge Pool in 2002 and the Gahanna Swimming Pool in 2008.

"We have served thousands of Gahanna families each year and have done it in a financially responsible manner," Collins said. "As the swimming season ends this year, a major challenge lies in front of our community. We have been asked to find a way to continue to offer safe aquatic opportunities while planning for a sustainable financial future for our city."

For the past two years, there have been a number of conversations, meetings, and public events to discuss possible options regarding pool operations.

"Today, there seems to be as many questions as there were two years ago," Collins said. "Our residents want to better understand the cost, history, market and potential options. The (parks and recreation) department leadership has been working to create a plan of operations for the department for the path forward."

Collins said he intends to present council members and the community with the history, current information and possible future options for aquatics in Gahanna.

"We hope at the end of the discussion to find a solution that enables our current Gahanna aquatic centers to continue to serve our residents," he said. "As we are collecting and preparing the data, we will continue to work with community partners to develop the options that may be available going forward."

Among other data, Collins said, he is preparing to complete 2015-2019 operations plans; a historical timeline of Gahanna's involvement with both pools; a financial report, including past, present and future projections of pool operations; a membership, gate and partner report showing historical and current users; and a market report, including regional public pool information and rates.

A complete physical inspection of the pools also is being planned to provide repair estimates.

In addition to the public-involvement session in September, Collins said, he will revise and resubmit a request for proposals for pool operations.

The pools also might be winterized at city cost with preventive maintenance measures to allow the possibility of reopening next season.

A plan is expected to be finalized in November, with budgets and appropriations adjusted as necessary.

"As we move forward, we are always open to discussing aquatics," Collins said. "We will adjust this plan as input is gathered and information is gathered. I look forward to this important community decision."

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