The Turlock Recreation Division proposed closing Columbia Pool until July 1, 2009 but the Turlock City Council has publicly approved and directed staff that the pools would be open from June until late summer as they normally are.
A “Save the Pool” email was sent out by the Turlock City Recreation Division and is circulating throughout the community including terms such as “to keep the swimming pools open this,” “your contribution will help to keep the kids safe, and prevent drowning by encourage them to Swim in supervised areas,” and “If funds are not received the opening of the pools will have to be delayed until July.”
When Recreation Division Manager Judy Loretelli was asked if Council made any decision suggesting the pools might be closed, Loretelli said “No, Council approved the pools to open in June and they are looking specifically for ways to fund them.”
Further questions concerning the email were referred to Municipal Services Director Dan Madden.
Mayor John Lazar said “My fellow Council colleagues and I unanimously decided to fully financially support the opening of the pools and to start the swim programs in June when they normally begin. The Council expects alternative spending reductions, rather than the closing or delaying of the pool’s opening, to be presented at the next Council Meeting.”
“It is my understanding that city staff will clarify and revise the email that was sent out,” said Mayor Lazar.
Vice Mayor Ted Howze clarified the Council’s direction despite what the Turlock Recreation email read saying “At its last public meeting, the Turlock City Council by unanimous vote directed staff to fund the entire swim season and all swim programs. In addition, interim City Manager Hampton was asked to bring alternate budget cutting options back to Council that would reduce overhead\personnel costs in the recreation department as opposed to services to the community.”
When Councilman Kurt Spycher was asked about the “Save the Pool” email he simply stated “I stand by what Council voted on and support that direction.”
Councilwoman Amy Bublak responded to the email that suggested the Turlock pools may not open by saying “The pool will be open in June for sure and there has never been any question about it.”
Councilwoman Mary Jackson was not able to be reached for comment.
According to public Council Meeting action and clarified statements, Columbia Pool and other city pools, along with their swim programs, will not be cut whether money is fundraised or not.
So why is the “Save the Pool” email stating the pools may close or that their openings may be delayed?
“The email was worded incorrectly and subsequently sent out prematurely,” said Municipal Services Director Dan Madden. “There will be a revised email on Monday that I sent to the City Manager for approval on how I wanted it written.”
“SAVE THE POOL” email:
KEEP KIDS SAFE–KEEP TURLOCK POOLS OPEN!!!
In order to keep the swimming pools open this summer the City of Turlock needs your assistance. $30,000.00 is needed NOW, so that local swimming pools can open in June for the youth of the community.
Individuals, Youth, Teens, Parents, Businesses, and Corporations— can help save the Swim Program. Make youth a priority, your contribution will help to keep the kids safe, and prevent drowning by encourage them to Swim in supervised areas.
Every donation counts if the pools are to be opened in June. If funds are not received the opening of the pools will have to be delayed until July. We need your help to provide safe places for the children of Turlock to swim this summer.
Due to families staying closer to home and taking in town vacations, many youth will be left with nothing to do, especially if the pools are closed. Your contributions will provide a positive activity for youth to engage in and will keep from swimming in unsafe areas. Generating the funds to provide aquatic programs and other recreation programs requires community effort and ongoing commitment.
Contact the Recreation Office for information on Donating Funds to KEEP THE POOLS OPEN and KEEP KIDS SAFE. Call Judy Loretelli or Juliene Flanders in the Recreation Division Office 668-5594 for more information. If you would like to contribute you may do so by stopping by the Recreation Office and or mail your donation to the City of Turlock Recreation Office at 301 Starr Avenue, Turlock, Ca. 95380. Donations are tax deductible.
The Council’s publicly stated desire has been to continue the high quality of services while saving jobs but not spending all of the city’s reserve money. This sounds like a dream situation but this was the starting point. Interim City Manager and Police Chief Gary Hampton said that he was always up for a challenge and that he’d work to accomplish Council’s desire.
Late last year, Municipal Services Director Dan Madden proposed to cut Parks and Recreation Division Managers Rick Harden and Judy Loretelli’s positions.
After the City Council, City of Turlock employees, and community members stated their feelings of a family like group and wanted to save jobs, Madden asked Council to reconsider his proposal of cutting the two positions and to let the managers look for ways to save money instead.
On March 10, 2009 the Turlock City Council/ Turlock Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission Joint Meeting included some questions by the commissioners concerning proposed budget cuts.
Turlock Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission Chairman Brent Bohlender stated that the commission should have had more input on the cuts or at least know what some of the cuts being proposed meant by way of possible compromised services and efforts.
The one item that stood out in the Recreation Division’s budget cutting proposal was the aquatic program. Chairman Bohlender asked what that cut meant.
Recreation Division Manager Judy Loretelli and Superintendent Juliene Flanders explained that they were proposing to close the pools (Columbia, THS, Pitman) until July 1, 2009. This would include cutting part-time lifeguard jobs, cut revenue generating swim lessons, and cut affordable public swim time catering mostly to the west side during the month of June until July. Columbia is the most used pool out of the three by far.
It was clarified that the Turlock City Council had nothing to do with this proposal and that it actually went against the Council’s desire to not cut services.
The Turlock City Council reiterated their desire at the March 24, 2009 Council Meeting when Vice Mayor Ted Howze asked that Council direct the Interim City Manager to make sure Columbia Pool operates through its normal historical time which is June through late summer.
Recreation Division Manager Judy Loretelli stated in the Modesto Bee that she was worried about the 11,000 swimmers’ safety who use the pool during the summer but might dangerously swim in canals if the pool opening is delayed.
Howze wanted staff to find a way to reduce to their expenses within Recreation that come from overhead as opposed to services.
Vice Mayor Howze said “We had a plan (including cutting the Recreation and Parks Manager positions) here that would have reduced overhead and allowed us to reduce no services to the public. This came back to us in a form which did exactly the opposite; it retained the overhead and reduced the services.
Howze wants to make sure the pool is open and serving the people in that area of town that most need it.
Mayor John Lazar brought up how he was at a Mayor’s Meeting where the City Manager of Oakdale made a suggestion to ask TID for some sort of a tax that the City of Oakdale asked from OID. OID was apparently collecting taxes within the city and not returning it back to the city, so OID voluntarily funded their swim program. Mayor Lazar didn’t know if the City of Turlock had that same opportunity but thought that the city should look into it.
Interim City Manager Gary Hampton said that he was hesitant to pursue a similar program as the City of Oakdale for reasons that he was not prepared to speak on at that moment.
Hampton did say that there was an interested corporation that might possibly fund the swim program during June.
Ultimately the Turlock City Council voted to have cost cutting alternatives to maintain our citywide swim programs brought back at the April 14th meeting.