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Family grows at Center Foundation

While rough-and-tumble politics dominate the Safety Harbor landscape these days, some brighter news also is emanating from this bayside city. And _ so far at least _ the former hasn't tainted the latter. The bright news concerns the very real possibility that Safety Harbor will become part of the Center Foundation family, joining the city of Clearwater, St. Petersburg Junior College, Clearwater YWCA, Clearwater for Youth and Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens.

This would mean that Safety Harbor residents would have access to the two indoor swimming pools, three-court gymnasium and other facilities just as if this was their own city recreation complex. And that's really what it will be because Safety Harbor, if its City Commission agrees to financial terms, will be a full partner.

The proposal now being considered in City Hall is for Safety Harbor to pay, up front, $375,000. That's a sizable amount of money, but far less than it would cost the city to duplicate those facilities within its own boundaries. In fact, the cost probably would be prohibitive even if the city built a traditional open-air pool. The Center Foundation's two indoor pools will operate year-round.

The city also is determining, for discussion's sake, what it would cost to maintain its own swimming pool and grounds because it would not have that cost at the center. An endowment fund is expected to produce $200,000 a year for such fixed costs as maintenance of the building and grounds and a full-time staff.

After its one-time payment of $375,000, Safety Harbor would pay, based on its usage of the pools, a proportionate share of the cost of pool chemicals and electricity, lifeguards, insurance and front-desk receptionists. The city would provide its own coaches and set its own fees.

When Center Foundation president Fred Fisher met recently with Safety Harbor Mayor Art Levine, City Manager John Downes and Leisure Services Director Tom Ronald, he pointed out that the center is not a profit-making organization so it will charge only enough to cover variable expenses. And Downes added that the city's per-unit cost would go down as usage by city residents went up.

Safety Harbor also would maintain an office at the center for its own recreation personnel. The city also would have a say in the ongoing operation of the center because it, like the other groups involved, would have four trustees on a governing board.