Westerville News & Public Opinion

Jaycee Pool will open May 24 -- perhaps for its last summer

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After 60 years in the city, Westerville's Jaycee Pool faces an uncertain future.

A shuffle in Jaycee leadership over the winter left the board unwilling to invest more money in the facility built in 1954, and while Assistant Manager Joy Dietz and other leadership will manage to open the pool for 2014, there's no guarantee that the pool will have another year of service beyond this summer.

Rumors have flown around the pool at 230 S. Otterbein Ave. this spring -- that it had millions in needed repairs and was seeking a buyout by the city, that it was not going to open again.

Dietz attributes the pool's problems to larger societal issues.

"The 'thing to do' isn't going swimming anymore," she said. "Lots of moms and dads work, kids go to camp, those kinds of things."

Dietz said the pool has been "a self-sustaining facility," until the last year, when a dip in membership and declining interest in pools began to take its toll on funds raised. But, she said, the pool hopes to be self-sustaining again.

"For me, the pool is where I was born and raised," Dietz said. "I've worked there since I was 12, every summer other than when I was in college. It's home to us in the summer time. We have a sense of belonging and loyalty to the pool and to the members who join us in the summer ... and we think it's very important that people have a choice of where they swim and what they like."

The employees aren't the only ones who care about the pool, which puts a priority on offering its services to the widest range of visitors possible.

"We serve Westerville, anyone in Westerville or the surrounding cities. Anyone can join the pool without a special cost or anything," Dietz said. "Anyone can join. We serve a lot of camps, daycares, a large population of special needs adults and young children. ... So we serve a vast variety of people, and that was our big push to stay open."

Running a pool is expensive, Dietz said, noting that it pays about $20,000 per year in taxes. Opening for the summer alone will cost an estimated $7,000, which will cover new paint (specialized for pools), maintenance and other costs, not including manpower and other continual expenses throughout the summer.

But despite the struggle, the pool is still scheduled to open May 24, though former manager Eric Morgan is departing, leaving only a group of assistant managers in leadership, she said.

"We know the operation of the pool pretty much, what we need and don't need," Dietz said. "So we're just going to keep it low key."

Until they're more certain of their future, the pool's employees feel like Westerville may lose an important part of its community.

"It's kind of heartbreaking for us, for the people who have been employed there and for the families of people who have come and had swim lessons here, the people that rely on those programs every summer," Dietz said.

"But society has changed, the world has changed. Parents work, and it's not the same to come and hang out at the pool all day."

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