City recreation services talks continue


As conversations continue surrounding the City of Delaware’s position with its agreement for recreational services with the YMCA, the city is seeking outside help to assist in potentially developing a Master Plan to bring those services back into its own control.

PROS Consulting has proposed a two-phase analysis of the city’s needs in regard to recreational services and the development of a Master Plan, which would include assessment of what the city’s current position would allow for, as well as funding and revenue strategies.

The first-phase “needs assessment” would include a “statistically valid and reliable” community survey that will “provide city council and the community feedback about the utilization of recreational programs, what programs are being utilized, what residents are interested in seeing, what they might not be interested in seeing,” City Manager Tom Homan said during the Sept. 9 council meeting.

However, during that meeting, some council members said they were surprised to see the total cost the contract with PROS would carry; the first phase alone would cost $44,360, and the second phase would cost $30,600 for a total cost of $74,960 to the city.

Given council members’ reluctance to sign off on total cost of the project, Homan said the ordinance could be rewritten to only include the first phase, with a decision on the need for the second phase coming after the first phase is completed.

“That will allow us to do the stakeholder engagement piece, the survey, which we think is imperative in terms of just getting a sense of what the public is thinking regarding recreation services. And then at that point, after that is completed and coming back to (council), making a decision about the need to move into the second phase.”

He later added, “This is a firm that I think can assist us in the issues that we’re dealing with right now, and I think they’re well-equipped to do it. Given their experience … especially dealing with communities that have YMCAs … that can be a help to us.”

The ordinance was amended to only include the first phase, which was approved unanimously. The second phase will require a second funds appropriation should council ultimately decide to move forward with the Master Plan.

Taking back J-Flo

At the center of the discussions between the city and YMCA about its handling of recreational services has been the operation of Jack Florance Pool.

Concerns have been raised by both council and community members due to the lack of lifeguards available throughout the summer, which, in turn, affects the allowed capacity in the pool. Gates not being locked at night and the pool not being properly secured, as well as issues with how the pool chemical testing is being conducted, have also been discussed as serious concerns.

Because of the mounting concerns, there has been a growing sentiment that the city needs to take back control of the pool. That discussion continued at Monday’s meeting as council discussed a report on the costs of running the pool.

Homan called the pool’s operation “one of the most labor-intensive recreation programs, because it requires approximately 75 seasonal employees. Homan said those employees include lifeguards, assistant cashiers, managers, and various swim instructors.

Assistant City Manager Kyle Kridler said the city reached out to its neighbors, such as Westerville, to get an idea financially if pool operations would be neutral or a cost center.

“There was a decent range of $100,000 in the red to $10,000 in the black,” Kridler said. “So, I think it really depends on probably more of those cities’ philosophies on subsidizing, keeping the rates down.”

Councilman George Hellinger said the city wouldn’t be in this position if it would have made it clear in the service agreement that the YMCA works for the City of Delaware, and any issues with the services would be resolved by city officials.

Councilwoman Lisa Keller said that for her, taking the pool back is simply a matter of alleviating the concerns that have been raised about the YMCA’s handling of the pool. She said those concerns date all the way back to 2013 when there were similar complaints to the most recent happenings that have led to the current discussion.

“So, due to those safety concerns, I think we have to do what we have to do to take management of the pool back,” Keller said. “Not another summer.”

By Dillon Davis

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Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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