Pasco commissioners shouldn't be shy about tossing a lifesaver to the public swimming pool in Hudson. For the second consecutive year, the pool is on the chopping block as the proposed county budget excludes operating money for 2013. But unlike a year ago, the likelihood of a private swimming club coming to the rescue appears remote.
The Land O'Lakes Lightning, which stepped forward to assist at the county recreation center in central Pasco, was unable to duplicate that success in Hudson. Attempts to form a swim club in Hudson stalled at 20 participants, about one-fifth of the enrollment needed to cover operating expenses.
As a result, the county is trying to cull together a coalition of community representatives — high school swim team coaches, hospitals seeking physical rehabilitation outlets and the YMCA — to share in the annual operating costs to keep the pool open beyond this fiscal year.
Failing that, commissioners need to show leadership. Last year, in what was termed a one-time subsidy, the commission voted 3-2 to take $118,000 from reserves to keep the pool open this summer. The proposed budget now would need a $100,000 amendment to keep the pool open next year. The money is intended to cover a staff member's salary, plus chemicals and other overhead.
It is understood the county budget process ranks spending according to public use, amount of revenue produced, and whether the money is being used for an essential government service. On that scale, a swimming pool in Hudson falls behind public safety and other vital services.
Commissioners, however, should also consider the quality of life attributes provided by its parks and recreation department and the diminished funding they've provided for that purpose. Over the past five years of declining government revenue, commissioners: Closed two pools permanently; shut down recreation centers on Sundays; reduced park maintenance and assessed new user fees to park visitors and athletic league participants. In Hudson, the swimming pool at Veterans Memorial Park is one of only two remaining county pools and the only one west of Land O'Lakes. Meanwhile, a separate proposal to significantly limit the operating hours at the city of New Port Richey's aquatic center should be taken into account before commissioners act.
Saturday marks the 22nd anniversary of the county pool opening at the park in Hudson. Pasco commissioners need to ensure it will still be open on its 23rd anniversary and beyond.