YMCA could be option to run aquatic center

A lifeguard watches a section of Dallas Aquatic Center. The city is exploring options for utilizing city costs at the facility.

Photo by Jolene Guzman
A lifeguard watches a section of Dallas Aquatic Center. The city is exploring options for utilizing city costs at the facility.

DALLAS — The city of Dallas is in talks with the YMCA of Marion & Polk Counties about the possibility of the Y taking over program operations of the Dallas Aquatic Center.

The purpose of the arrangement would be to cut into the nearly $400,000 subsidy the city provides the aquatic center each year.

City Manager Greg Ellis invited YMCA of Marion & Polk Counties CEO Sam Carroll to give a presentation to the Dallas City Council during a work session on Sept. 4.

“I’ve had an opportunity to look at your pools, very impressed with your aquatics facility and what is offered to people that you serve in that facility,” Carroll said. “I’ve seen some pretty high-level budgetary numbers.”

He said based on his preliminary review, he believes there’s opportunity for the Y to help the city. The Y operates pool facilities in Independence and Silverton, Carroll said.

“I think, again from a very high level, we have an opportunity to contain some costs, and working with you, generating some additional revenue,” he said.

Ellis said for the last two years, the revenue-to-expense ratio for the aquatic center is 53.3 percent.

“I think there will be opportunity to help you,” Carroll said. “We would have to sit down and look at revenue and expenses. I can’t take on your pool operations and lose money. That’s why you are in this situation, but what I have to offer you, though, is the expertise and the knowledge and the know-how to manage pools. That’s what we do. We’ve been doing it for 125 years.”

While he said the Y could help contain costs and possibly increase revenue, he doubted the city’s support of the center would ever reach zero.

“You will never get out of the business of subsidizing your pool,” Carroll said. “My purpose is to get it to less than $400,000.”

He said the cost of memberships and admission, as well as the programs offered, would be up to negotiation. The Y strives to make memberships affordable for all people and uses a sliding scale based on income, Carroll said.

If the Y took over operations, all staff positions at the facility would be reopened for hiring.

“We do know, too, that lifeguards and staff just aren’t everywhere,” he said.

Carroll said expectations for safety standards are high at Y pools.

“We have high levels of the expectations of the training of our staff, ratios of guards to swimmers and ongoing training,” he said.

Offering swim lessons is a high priority, too.

“Here in Oregon, you have a significant amount of waterfront. Kids need to learn how to swim. Adults do too,” Carroll said. “Sometimes they are a little bit more challenging to teach.”

In an unusual move for a work session, the council decided to take comments from the audience.

Several people mentioned they were worried that the city would close the aquatic center to save money.

Mayor Brian Dalton and Councilor Micky Garus assured the audience that is not the case.

“There is not one person sitting up here that wants to close the aquatic center,” Garus said. “All we have done is started the discussion. Is there are way that we can save $50,000 at the aquatic center? Is there a way we can save $100,000?”

Garus proposed putting it on the ballot on Aug. 20.

Mark Maxwell, the coach of the Blue Dolphins swim team, and parents of team members, asked if the Y took over the pool, would they be allowed to use the facility as an independent team. Maxwell said about 15 years ago, he coached a swim team in Sherwood that was forced to become a program of the Y to continue to use the facility.

Garus said that the discussions are just begifnning and a lot more information is needed for the council to decide.

“It sounds like there’s some potential for some savings,” Garus said. “We need to see what that really is and then weigh out the pros and the cons and what we think is best for the community.”

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