County commissioners will have a chance next week to save the two remaining county-owned swimming pools.
Parks director Rick Buckman will present an agreement at Tuesday's commission meeting that would allow a private swim team to take over maintenance and operations of the pool at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex. The pool would stay open to the public, but swimming hours would be trimmed.
Buckman also gave commissioners the option of paying for another summer season at the Veterans Memorial Park pool in Hudson, though he acknowledged the long-term future of that pool is "on a wing and a prayer."
"We've generally got a pretty good agreement for not a lot of money to keep the pools open to the public," Buckman said.
Under the plan, the Land O'Lakes Lightning team would take over pool operations at the Land O'Lakes complex, including buying chemicals and maintaining water quality. The county would still pay for lifeguards.
The pool would remain open to the public six days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Swimming hours would be cut from nine hours each day to seven. The two high school swim teams that practice in the pool would have to reach an agreement with the Lightning to use the pool. The club team has said it wants to keep a close relationship with those teams.
The agreement cuts the county's overall pool losses by roughly $130,000. The county would still pay about $48,000 for the Land O'Lakes pool, mostly for lifeguards and supplies for the rest of the year. It would spend $146,000 for the pool in Hudson. Gate fees are expected to bring in at least $30,000.
Most of the savings come from laying off a staff member who maintained the Land O'Lakes pool.
Since the proposal to close the pools was floated in June to cut costs, several commissioners have said they want to find a way to save the pools.
"I want to see those pools stay open," said Commissioner Ann Hildebrand. "Not having a public swimming pool in Florida, that would be un-American."
Besides the talks in Land O'Lakes, Buckman also met with residents and community groups in Hudson. There are no concrete proposals for that pool, but he said he is working with the nearby high school swim teams and the YMCA on programs that would offset county costs.
"I'm going to try and hold us and the community accountable and reportable on progress," he said.
Some commissioners suggested finding money from other areas of the budget to pay for the pools, but Lightning president Brett Ewald said commissioners should still consider his deal.
Without the agreement, he said, "we are going to be sitting here next year having this exact same conversation. We're offering this plan that could work for years to come at a much lower price to them."
The agreement also allows the Lightning to offer swimming lessons for kids. Prices will likely jump. The county charges $35 for a six-lesson package for a class with 10 kids. The team hasn't finalized prices, but Ewald said the cost could be more than double what the county charges. But parents would get eight lessons and classes would have only five kids. Ewald said the cost would still be far below other private lessons, which can cost roughly $140.
Other fees could also get a more modest increase. Buckman said the department is considering raising entrance fees, though he is balancing whether an increase would drive away swimmers and ultimately decrease revenue. Costs would likely go up a dollar, to $3 for kids and $4 for adults.
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.