Lori Thomas is urging London City Council to think outside the box—and outside city tax dollars—when it comes to funding the municipal swimming pool.
Faced with budget issues, the city is seriously considering not opening the pool next summer.
Thomas, a Choctaw Lake resident, works with Madison County children through a job in social services. She said she sees firsthand the positive impact recreational opportunities have on youths. Without investment in such activities, she said, the city will end up spending more to combat negative activities.
At the Sept. 20 city council meeting, Thomas suggested the city seek donations from the private sector to help fund the pool. She also shared an idea to not only increase pool membership sales but also benefit families who cannot afford memberships.
“Maybe people in the community could sponsor families, Thomas said.Rather than just look at tax dollars, we need to get creative and look into the community to see what we can do.
Steve Hume, Londons safety-service director, said the cost to operate the pool each year is roughly $60,000. About half of that is covered by pool memberships, admission fees, swim lessons and other user fees. The other half comes out of the general fund. Those figures do not include repairs to the pool, which next year would cost a minimum of $10,000, he said.
Two summers ago, the city received substantial private donations, as well as a one-time Community Action grant, that allowed the city to keep the pool open. There were no such donations or grants this year and none are on the table as of now for next year.
“I grew up at the pool every summer, and this is a difficult decision for council, said councilman Pat Closser.Our (pool) memberships were down 30 percent this summer.
Closser said he appreciated Thomas input and said more brainstorming is needed.
Councilman Steve Scaggs said no one on council wants to make cuts to the budget, but that priority must be given to certain city services, such as fire and police protection.
The decision to close the pool next year is not final at this time. The city auditor and council are still working on the 2013 budget. The next regular council meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 in council chambers, 6 E. Second St. The next finance committee meeting will take place at 8 a.m. Oct. 9 in council chambers. Both meetings are open to the public.