Pool management debate continues

Although there are new faces in the Bellevue council chambers, Tuesday night’s debate over whether to hire a pool management company was familiar. Proponents argued that the higher cost of a management company is justified by a safer and better-run pool at Memorial Park, while other council members said the borough cannot afford the price tag.

Until two years ago, Bellevue followed the practice of other local municipal pools by hiring its own manager and lifeguards for the summer. Council then opted to have the pool managed by SwimAmerica. The company bid $72,500 last year, with the same bid submitted for this year, according to council member Jane Braunlich.

Council president Linda Woshner said that she reviewed swimming pool expenditures and budgets for the past several years. In 2009, she said, when Bellevue ran the pool itself, the cost was $115,805. That cost increased to $178,407 when the company took over in 2010, and to $186,000 in 2011.

Braunlich said that director of administrative services (DAS) Doug Sample had provided an estimate for personnel costs if Bellevue managed the pool in-house this year, but included positions that are not part of the borough’s personnel code and estimated lifeguard salaries at a higher rate than is paid. Braunlich said that she estimated personnel would cost Bellevue about $65,000.

Mayor George Doscher and council members Mark Helbling and Kathy Coder argued that the management company was worth the increased cost because the pool was more professionally run and safer for those who have used it in the last two years.

Doscher said that there had been problems in the past with pool personnel, particularly young managers, who had not behaved responsibly.

“The people we had were not professionals,” Doscher said.

Braunlich and Woshner, however, said that they had received similar reports about SwimAmerica’s Bellevue employees last year.

Woshner also challenged the argument that Bellevue’s swimming pool was safer than neighboring pools, such as those in Avalon and Avonworth Community Park, that were managed in-house.

“The Avalon pool wasn’t as safe as Bellevue last year?” she questioned.

The issue was not resolved, but council is expected to vote at its regular meeting on Tuesday on whether to hire SwimAmerica for the 2012 season.

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