Lexington parks department weighs changes to family pool passes

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comApril 22, 2014 

Dakota Condra of Lexington jumped into the pool at the Southland Aquatic Center on Memorial Day weekend last year.

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A parks advisory board on Wednesday will consider significant changes to an annual family pool pass that gives families unlimited access to Lexington's pools throughout the summer.

The city parks department had proposed doing away with the annual family pass because of declining revenues and concerns about fraud, but after pushback from the community the department is now suggesting changes that would increase the cost of the pass for some families.

[See Lexington pool fees, calendars and descriptions]

The parks department is proposing lowering the price of the individual annual summer pass from $50 to $40. That means a family of four would pay $160 for passes — the same amount the city has charged for family passes in past years.

Families of six to eight would pay $200 for a family pass. They could add additional family members for $20 per person under the proposal to be brought before the parks department advisory board, Commissioner of General Services Geoff Reed said.

The advisory board must approve the change before it would go into effect.

"We've been looking at several problems and options we might have," Reed said.

In past years, the popular annual family pool pass has allowed up to six members of a family access to all seven city pools for $160 for the summer.

However, it was difficult for the parks department to determine who was in a family. The average family size in Lexington is a little more than 2.7 people, according to most U.S. Census data. But the park's data on average family size was quite different.

"Our average family size was 6.2," said Brian Rogers, a deputy director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "People were selling the passes on Craigslist."

Rogers said the parks department is trying to balance family needs with the city's need to control fraud and stop the aquatics program from hemorrhaging money.

Despite shuttering several pools over the past few years, the aquatics program does not make money. Its total budget is a little more than $1.2 million, but revenues are roughly $600,000.

"It's never been self-sustaining," Rogers said. "Aquatics is definitely a service as opposed to a business."

Stephanie Spires said she understands "absolutely" why the city is considering changing the pricing, and she said she will still buy a pool pass.

Spires, a foster parent whose family size changes frequently, said the parks department has always worked with her to allow all her children in on the family pass, and she said she does not think that will change.

But Spires said she hopes any changes to the cost structure are made in a way that will not hurt families that need the passes most.

"The public pools really reach a lower socioeconomic group," she said, adding that they also help keep kids out of trouble during the summer months. "If I had my way, we'd give every kid a pool pass."

The parks advisory board will meet at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Picadome administrative offices, 469 Parkway Drive.

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

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