WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
CENTENNIAL OPERATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: January 9, 2012
Place: Village Hall Council Chambers
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Commissioners: Crowley, Benz
Absent: Commissioner Shelly
Staff: Bowen, Juliar, Lambrecht, Smith, Udany
Visitors: Bennewitz, Campbell, Childress, Daly, Hanley, Jackson, Kocian, Luglio, McGrath, Michiels, Tighe, Vulgaris, Wielzorek
Topics of Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Communications and Correspondence
4) Recognition of Visitors
5) Committee and Staff Discussion
6) Managers Reports
7) Old Business
8) New Business
1) The meeting was called to order at 6:15 p.m.
2) The Committee approved the minutes of the November 14, 2011 Committee meeting by General Consent
3) Under Communications and Correspondence, Chair Crowley reported a total of 65 emails were received in regard to the proposed changes to the pool’s swim schedule.
4) Under Recognition of Visitors, Chair Crowley stated that a total of 65 emails were received by staff and another 10 to 15 emails were sent to the Commissioners in regard to the proposed swim schedule changes.
Kirk T. Bennewitz, 246 Locust Road stated he is an active lap swimmer and is very aware of the number of swimmers in the lap lanes during these particular hours being discussed. The 5-7 pm time is very popular and is a critical time for most of the lap lane swimmers who work during the day. He would like to know where the idea to make these changes originated.
Superintendent Bowen replied that staff was approached by resident pool members who asked us to consider this change.
Mr. Bennewitz stated he is aware the New Trier Swim Club is there from to 5-7 pm and that they usually swim in the other five lanes. As a lap swimmer, it is inevitable that when children and the public are using the other side of the pool, the children interfere with the lap swimming lanes by throwing balls or diving in and out of them. He cannot imagine New Trier would be in favor of this change either. He also thinks the lap swimming population is a reasonable group, that they use this pool exclusively for lap swimming, and that we would lose as many people as we might gain from this change. He doesn’t think that New Trier who pays to rent the pool wants chaos next to them. The fact is that the lap swimmers are mostly working people and 5 to 7 pm is a critical time for them. New Trier also has the pool in the morning along with the Masters team who pay for the pool as well. The lap swimmers are examples to the public of what a person can do when he or she is 50-70 years old since swimming is a great way to stay healthy and vibrant. The swimmers also provide a good example for the children. In addition, the zero depth pool is open from 5-7 pm and the children can swim there. He has been swimming at Centennial for over 30 years and the critical element is the provision of lap lanes which was his only reason for voting yes on the referendum to build the pool. Not too many of the lap swimmers are here tonight but there are many of them and 60% of the emails received were in favor of keeping the lap lanes.
Chris Wielzorek, 736 Tenth Street, stated he has two young children and his wife works all day. When he gets home during the week, it’s his opportunity to swim with his children since the zero depth pool doesn’t work for them. When he has been at the pool on Saturdays, he has found that the respect of family swimmers for lap swimmers has been great and his children like to come over and watch him and the other lap swimmers. During the week, the only time they can use the pool is from 5 to 7 although they have been able to use the pool when the swim club decides not to use their hours. At this point, their only other reliable opportunity to use the pool is on Saturday and Sunday. If they are not able to utilize either of these or other options during the week, then they will have to look for another pool facility. Also, maybe the Park District should consider a weekend-only membership. He does not believe that the lap swimmers should be eliminated from the pool. He asked why is one set of Wilmette residents – the lap swimmers – being pitted against another set of Wilmette residents – the family swimmers – and why is it an either/or proposition. He understands why the pool is made available to outside entities but it seems the first and foremost thing should be for the people who built and own the pool and the clubs and outside groups should get whatever times are left.
Mavarneen Michiels, 912 Pontiac Road, stated she has been a Wilmette resident for most of her life and recently moved back from Los Angeles. She loves the pool and because of that she became a swim instructor/lifeguard at Centennial last summer. She doesn’t understand the elimination of lap swimming during a certain time because she had a great rapport with the swimmers. The amount of time that is cut into the lap swimmers’ time during the day is huge due to the swim club and other groups. The only time the lap swimmers have is at the end of the swim lesson session in July which results in their being able to swim only a couple of extra hours for three weeks. She is not saying it should be like that all the time but the 5-7 pm slot is their time for swimming after work. She also understands the concerns of the families but there are other areas for them to swim or dive. The one thing that is consistent is the dedication of the lap swimmers. She thinks it would be a great injustice to eliminate that time period and hopes to work at Centennial again next summer since she really loves the pool. She also thinks it would be a mistake to eliminate lap swimming from 5-7 pm.
Les Jackson, 701 Forest, stated he had been involved with the pool referendum which included a multi-use pool and a main facility for regular swimming and lap swimming. He thinks that the time of day is crucial for working people who are lap swimmers. He thought the purpose of the multi-use pools was to offer fitness lap swimming especially in the main and recreation pools. The Park District’s mission statement should be to support health and fitness in terms of exercise. Shifting the hours would result in a significant drop in pool memberships and he agrees with a previous speaker who commented that as a mother, the 5-7 pm is the only time she can swim with her children. There are individuals who feel very strongly about swimming and learning how to swim so perhaps the swim teams can be encouraged to have a lane open and then have some kind of feeder program into the swim team which would work for all three groups – the swim team, lap swimmers, and a lane devoted to parents and children.
Candice Luglio, 1239 Maple Avenue, stated she thinks that when talking about shifting times it seems the New Trier Swim Club practices are not on the table. According to their web site, they practice as early as 5:45 am and as late as 9:30 pm even during the school year. To her it seems sensible to shift their practice time to the 7-9 pm window and make the earlier time available for public swim. and the general public which is the schedule on Saturdays. This would also maybe help to encourage better pool etiquette with the children. She has four children and it’s difficult to come to the pool alone with them so she has to wait for her husband until comes home for assistance. It is incorrect to think that families are there all day and then they should just go home. The other question is how it happened that this outside entity – the New Trier Swim Club – seems to be an equal stakeholder with the residents and if someone could address that it would be beneficial. Regarding the shifting of the swim club hours, the participants are children who have more flexible schedules than adults but maybe there’s some room for compromise.
Steve Childress, 112 Dupee Place stated he has also been a user of the pool since it opened and was a supporter of the referendum. The old Centennial pool was not suitable for lap swimming and the new pool was specifically design for lap swimming. He works early in the morning so he is unable to swim at that time. He schedules his work hours in order to make it to the pool at 5:45 or 6 pm to swim laps which is really the only time during the day that works for him. He would not be able to use the pool at all if those hours were taken away. His other point is that sometimes you see there’s only two or three people in the lane but in reality those swimmers are not always the same three people – they come and go. Over the course of two hours, you’ll find there are quite a few swimmers using the lap lanes. He made the point that people who do go to work early in the morning would be inconvenienced and would probably not be able to swim if the lanes were not open during the 5-7 pm time.
Judy Hanley, 2343 Old Glenview stated she is a lap swimmer and doesn’t know why one would consider eliminating lap swimming at that time. She also asked why can’t we do both. Swimming is an athletic sport and doctors recommend it for people her age. Both groups should be able to be at the pool at the same time since we pay enough in taxes.
Micaela Daly, 1701 Highland Avenue, stated when she first received the email about pool usage which indicated the possibility of eliminating lap swimming she thought the issue was with the New Trier Swim Team. She also doesn’t know why we’re pitting two Wilmette groups against each other and why aren’t we looking at how the pool can serve the Wilmette residents first. She thinks we need to look at the swim team's hours too.
Gene Kocian, 1026 Greenwood, stated he works downtown and is a lap swimmer. His schedule is similar to the previous speaker’s wherein he would not have time to swim during the pool schedule as it is set up now in the morning so the only time he has is after work around 6 pm. If he isn’t able to swim during that time period, he would probably not buy another pool membership.
Paul Ross, Wilmette, stated the overall resources of the facility seem dedicated to public swim already so there is a limited amount of lap swimming available. He personally has herniated discs so his swimming is dependent on these lanes. The biggest problem is that if those lanes are closed down, a lot of the swimmers, including himself, are forced to swim in the morning hours which can be overcrowded. Younger children can be brought to the pool by parents and use the rest of the pool. They are not dependent on the pool like the lap swimmers are. In regard to the comments about the New Trier Swim Club and how they’re going to adjust their schedule, maybe opening up the pool earlier or closing later would help.
Joel Runkus stated he is a resident, taxpayer and an avid lap swimmer. He also works downtown, and like many people have said, it is difficult fitting in swimming and the 5-7 pm time slot is very convenient. There was also discussion about opening up a couple of lanes for general swimming and there are three other pools as well. He asked that the Board consider that option instead of closing down lap swimming. He also feels strongly that the New Trier Swim Club is using the facility although the rest of us are paying the taxes. Perhaps they can change their schedule to 5-9 pm and use the three lanes instead of five lanes for two hours or three lanes for four hours.
Lauren McGrath, 504 Park Avenue, stated she doesn’t know why we’re pitting lap swimmers against family swimmers when we’re all Wilmette taxpayers.
Committee Chair Crowley responded that he doesn’t know where that viewpoint came from but it is certainly not coming from the Park Board. Basically, the Committee had been approached by some resident users of the pool who wanted to have more open swim time in the main 50 meter pool. There was absolutely no program or agenda to pit one group against the other – it is simply not factual.
Ms. McGrath continued to say that she has three children and each of them belong in a different pool. Here nine-year-old is bored with the leisure pool and the diving pool is not open when we’re there or it is shut down. So everyone is crowded in the leisure pool from age 3 to older. She would rather have that time for them to swim in the lap pool as well but also retain the lap lanes for the lap swimmers.
Evita Vulgaris, 736 Sixteenth Street, stated she was one of the original people who wrote a letter to the Board. What she wants is to have more open family swim in the pool since she and her husband are both working parents. It was not their idea to eliminate lap swimming. As previously pointed out, it wasn’t at all clear in either of the emails from the Park District that it was a portion of the lap swimming and not all of the lap swimming that was being considered for elimination. Also, at the last meeting, she suggested an alternative of spreading out the New Trier Swim Club swimmers but for some reason that wasn’t even considered. Right now the team has 10 lap hours, 5 lanes for 2 hours and she doesn’t know why they can’t spread it out over 4 hours or so. They are also taxpayers and by no means did they intend to pit the different user groups against each other.
5) Committee and Staff Discussion:
Superintendent Bowen explained that the New Trier Swim Club is made up of approximately 40% Wilmette residents and includes a variety of ages from small children to older teens who participate in competitive swimming. They are also part of the community as well and were also a part of the old pool. This group played a significant role in getting the referendum passed because originally the Community Relations Committee recommended an indoor facility. They came to the Park District along with other residents to endorse an outdoor facility and specifically a 50-meter pool which they could then enjoy for lap and competitive swimming. As a result, the Olympic-sized 50-meter pool was specifically designed for lap swimming. There are also rentals of the pool in the morning with the Evanston Masters Swimming as well as the New Trier swim club for those swimmers in Wilmette and surrounding New Trier township community. Originally when the question was first proposed to the Park District, staff invited the Swim Team to the Committee meeting. They were very gracious and discussed what they could do. However, one thing they couldn’t do was to move their time period back because of the age of the swimmers which range from age 4 to 7. They did offer to move their swimming time up but that would have negatively affected the Park District’s camp program. Staff looked at several possible solutions and determined what would best accommodate all of our users of the facilities. There are generally six different user groups of the facility; tots and parents, all users during public swim, lap swimmers, swim team, divers and swim lessons. Of these different users, there is some time during the day that a particular individual cannot swim when they would like to. We have also received complaints from users that would like us to have open swim during the morning hours when we teach kids to swim. Staff believes they have done a pretty good job of organizing the schedule and they recommended to the Committee that to have this new public swimming between 5 and 7 pm we would need to eliminate lap swimming. Staff then recommended to the Committee that the lap swimming be eliminated and one lane be taken from the Swim Club. That would leave 4 lanes for public Swim and 4 lanes for the swim Club. The Committee asked that staff elicit responses from the community which promoted the first email blast.
Commissioner Benz commented that the difficult part of being a Commissioner and listening to people who have reasonable requests, sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. When he looked at all of the constituents, he realized that we are focusing on a period of pool usage which constitutes about 25% of the time during the Monday-Friday period. His feeling at the last meeting was that the families, who are obviously a very important part of Wilmette, have an option although maybe not their ideal option and they can use the activity pool during lap swimming. When looking at that time period which is open for lap swimmers and if we remove it, their options are now gone. As a result, he finds it difficult to recommend significant changes to the schedule for now.
Committee Chair Crowley stated that when the Committee began talking about the pool a decade ago, it was the community who asked for a public pool and a number of public hearings were held on how it should be used. In addition, the $10 million referendum for the pool was passed by a very strong percentage of residents. In the last 10 years, the schedule had been modified but we are essentially trying to place a lot of diverse patrons into one footprint. He stated that staff has done a very good job of doing this and has been very accommodating to as many people as possible. At this point, he does not recommend any changes be made at the pool. However, he will continue to listen to people. This additional meeting tonight was another chance for the public to speak on this issue and when changes are made it does have a “domino effect “ on the other groups.
6) Managers Reports
Darrell Smith reported that registration for the spring session of tennis lessons will be held this Saturday and the classes would run for 17 weeks through May. There were 541 students who signed up for the winter session which was the largest registration ever recorded for classes. However, that also means some people will not be able to get into a class. There are also about 180 permanent court times and during the week there are 179 times that are permanent. Staff continues to fit classes in between those court times.
Terry Juliar reported staff reviewed attendance numbers from the Christmas Break and public skate did very well. On the regular weekday mornings, the attendance in the sessions ranged from 160 to 285 and our largest sessions occurred on Christmas Eve with 205 participants, New Year Eve with 285, New Year’s Day with 208, and Monday, January 2, with 309. Staff saw a lot of good usage which could be due to their being no outdoor ice. Several families expressed their appreciation for the expanded hours offered during the holidays on Saturdays and Sundays.
6) Old Business: None
7) New Business: None
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 7:20 pm.
Minutes taken by Jeffrey Bowen.
MINUTES APPROVED ON MARCH 12, 2012.