Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Interview with City Parks & Rec Director

Last weekend was Weekend Without Echoes, I participated by traveling north to New Jersey to visit family and generally be away from the computer. Thanks to the family for the great time. I had a great idea for the WWE (tehe), I would interview the head of the Parks & Rec department in the City to get the real reason for the lack of pool hours I continually rant about. I nervously gathered my courage to contact the department head by asking a professional. Bob Gibson generously provided some hints (along with confidence) on how to proceed.

Michael Svetz is the Director of the Charlottesville Parks & Recreation department. He has been in the position for two years. Being director is a challenging job, especially for someone who is new to town. This community has a long history to contend with in addition to the normal bureaucratic issues. Mr. Svetz has heard an earful from the people in this town about the cut in pool hours. He would prefer to engage people directly, so he appreciated the opportunity to discuss the pool hours with me.

The current pool hours at the outdoor pools are Monday through Friday 12-6 (zero depth is open at 11:00 and closes at 7:00). Adult swim occurs at 45 minutes past the hour. The wading pool opens earlier at 10:30 but closes at 4:00. Weekend hours are indecipherable, but for my journalistic integrity I will try to figure it out (not really).

Washington Park- 11:00-4:00
Onesty Park- 12:00-4:00
Wading pools 12:00-4:00

I believe there is a free swim at the Washington Park for city residents on Saturday from 5-7 and on Sunday at Onesty Pool from 5-7. Cost of entry ranges from free (under 3)to $4.00 for adults. A season pass costs $125 for a household and one can purchase a 25 count punch card for about $75.00 (all these prices are for City residents).

Mike Svetz is frustrated by the pool situation. The facilities are all redundant - he does not believe there should be two of each type of pool. He cites Charlottesville's history of improper treatment of certain neighborhoods why the inefficiency continues to exist. He would prefer close some of the existing facilities and create a more central pool park. It is likely much of the City is not ready for such a bold proposal.

I mentioned to Mr. Svetz that some families could afford more than $125 a year for a swimming pass (given the private pool at Fry Springs costs about $1,000 for a season). Mr. Svetz cautiously explained many programs in Parks and specifically aquatics are priced for families with lower incomes (which, he mentioned is roughly equivalent to 20%-30% of the population). The programs and hours of the pools are also meant to serve families who have that income range. It makes sense, the pool rates and hours are designed to complement one another- unfortunately 70% to 80% of the population are left out of the calculus.

Every year the City Manager asks the Parks and Rec department (as well as others probably) to reduce its budget. Even with significant actual reductions, the budget remains somewhat stable because of the increase in fixed costs such as gas, health insurance, other utilities and the like. He cited a $10,000 a month natural gas bill at one of the indoor pool facilities as an example for the reduced level of service in the aquatics department.

Is there a way to balance the historic maltreatment of neighborhoods & the needs of lower income families with today's efficiency requirements & middle income families interest to use the Parks department to meet the aquatic needs of all its citizens?

Michael Svetz will present to City Council meeting on August 7. Clearly I will be discussing this issue more in the future.


Lown said...

I would rather sleep. ^_^

Anyway, I hope the pool hours start working out for you (and the rest of the Charlottesvillians), because who really wants to have strange hours except on the weekend?

SEMI said...

Jennifer -- This is an excellent post and a great public service. Thank you for doing this. Thank you, too, for continuing to blur the distinction that some people insist on making between "journalist" and "blogger". You are now a "blogalist"...;^)

brockbron said...


ishraq said...

We chem guys don't get a lot of swimming pool chemicals till we get "really" famous - but we live and breathe our swimming pool chemicals regardless. swimming pool chemicals

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