The Hilliard Family Aquatic Center and Hilliard East Municipal Pool East will accept cash this summer but Hilliard's community center and senior center still will not.

"I know it's an administrative decision but I'm disappointed," Hilliard City Council Vice President Kelly McGivern said last week after learning the no-cash system would stay in place at the Hilliard Community Center and Phyllis A. Ernst Senior Center.

McGivern and other council members on April 23 had asked Beth Simon, interim director of the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department, if the system for accepting cash at the two pools could be used at the community center and senior center.

Simon said last week the policy would not be extended outside the pools.

"We are not accepting cash," she said. "It is a decision made by the administration.

"We have been cashless for four months and we have not had any major issues. Everyone knows the policy and has been willing to pay with checks and credit cards."

The policy was effective Jan. 2 at the two facilities, she said.

Simon said gift cards and "punch passes" for lunches and exercise classes are accepted at the senior center.

The punch passes, or meal tickets, provide an alternative to members paying $5 a day for lunch. The passes may be purchased for as many as 12 lunches in advance.

Punch passes also can be used for the senior center's exercise classes, she said.

In addition, most classes and programs for those of all ages have online registration available, Simon said.

At the direction of Mayor Don Schonhardt, the cashless system was implemented at the start of the year in reaction to the alleged theft of more than $540,000 from the city's two pool facilities, dating back to 2013, according to city officials.

Heather Ernst, the former recreation and parks deputy director, was indicted March 1 on eight felony counts, including theft in office.

Schonhardt also fired Steve Mazer, the department director, March 8.

The mayor has stood by the no-cash policy at the community center and senior center.

"Every organization knows that the weakest link in any payment system is cash," he said.

Schonhardt said the Hilliard Municipal Building stopped accepting cash as forms of payment "years ago and it wasn't even a newsworthy item."

At the community center and senior center, he said, city officials identified "pocket-change items" that now are provided free of charge, and other products and services were "typically paid by forms other than cash."

"As a city, we are taking the steps we believe are in the best interest of all the parties involved," he said.

Last November, when Schonhardt announced his desire for a cashless system for all city facilities shortly after the alleged theft was made public, council members questioned the policy, specifically for the pools.

"You're punishing kids and parents for something they didn't do," Councilman Nathan Painter said in February.

On March 12, staff members from the recreation and parks department outlined a new policy allowing cash to be accepted at the pool facilities when they open Memorial Day weekend.

Kristan Turner, a recreation supervisor, said the pools would use a new point-of-sale system.

Department employees will use a touch-screen terminal to select payment -- either $10 for general admission or $5 for senior citizens -- including credit-card transactions, Turner said.

Geoff Dew, a recreation supervisor, said patrons also would be able to purchase advance daily tickets or gift cards on the city's website, hilliardohio.gov.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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