WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
CENTENNIAL OPERATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: July 9, 2012
Place: Village Hall Training Room
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Commissioners: Chair Graham, Benz, Brault, Crowley, Murdock
Staff: Wilson, Bingham, Bowen, Eppelheimer, Lambrecht, Smith, Udany
Visitors: Julie Flood
Topics of Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Recognition of Visitors
4) Communications and Correspondence
5) Managers Reports
6) Old Business
7) New Business
1) The meeting was called to order at 6:15 p.m.
2) The Committee approved the minutes of the June 11, 2012 Committee meeting by General Consent
3) Under Recognition of Visitors, Julie Flood stated she and her family have lived in Wilmette for 12 years and she was here tonight to represent a point of view from a large number of Wilmette residents and taxpayers in regard to the pool. Her family loves Wilmette – especially the Park District – and they have been frequent and supportive users of the resources and programs the District offers. However, there have been some issues with the pool over the course of the last couple of years that have created barriers. As a result, she wanted to express her concerns on behalf of a lot of people who feel the same way.
She and her family have been pool members every year since they moved to Wilmette. But lately a number of the policies and restrictions that have seemed to creep into the normal operating procedures have made it an increasingly unappealing option for a lot of Wilmette residents. Unfortunately, unless something changes she is not sure they will be renewing their pool membership next year which would be a loss to our family. She stated that several families she knows did not renew their memberships this year because the pool was too crowded. On one occasion, it was so crowded that she did not have a chair and had to sit on the grass off to the side. She did not recognize anyone but did see a group of people who she overheard say what a great place this was and that they were from outside of Wilmette and then threw their trash on the grass and left a diaper there. There were many other non-residents as well so it was not a local crowd. In general, she believes the overcrowding issues are out of control.
Ms. Flood stated that her daughter has been taking diving lessons at the Park District and wanted to practice but there were so many ridiculous restrictions and rules which ultimately prevented her from doing so at that time. The food service has improved over the last couple of years in terms of responsive and service but there are still problems with finding healthy, high-quality food items that should not be that difficult to solve.
They have also experienced some issues with the pool being closed at 5 pm for the New Trier Swim team practice. She believes the swim team has plenty of access to other pools and that the 5-7 pm closing time is unfair to families, especially working parents. The leisure pool is open during that time but it is “boring” for those swimmers who are older than 7 or 8.
Ms. Flood affirmed she understands that there are many challenges involved with managing a resource such as the pool but in her opinion she believes the pool is rapidly becoming irrelevant for the average Wilmette taxpayer which is unfortunate. She hopes that the Board will re-evaluate these polices and pricing the structure for non-residents as well as the New Trier Swim Club since it doesn’t make sense to most people.
Committee Chair Graham acknowledged that Ms. Flood identified three issues - overcrowding, the 5-7 pm time slot for New Trier, and food service issues and the Committee will review each issue. However, the pool has been more crowded this year than last year because of the hot weather. Non-residents are an important source of revenue for the Park District since they pay much higher fees than do residents so it would be inadvisable for the District to price it in such a way that it would be cost prohibitive for non-residents and result in higher fees for residents. We don’t want that to happen but at the same time we want to set fees so that non-residents are able to enjoy the facility while paying their fair share which defrays the cost for residents.
Chair Graham stated that bad behavior is also problem for both residents and non-residents and when that happens, management should be informed.
Commissioner Murdock stated he thought we should take a look at what the trend has been for residents versus non-residents and also review pricing to see if we have the right premiums.
Ms. Flood stated it has taken a couple of years to for her to come to the conclusion that overcrowding has also been a problem in the past and disagrees that it was just because of the hot weather this year.
Commissioner Graham stated he is not indicating that Ms. Flood’s observations are incorrect since he thinks the situation changes from year to year. However, it is an issue that the committee has to address. In his view, good management takes into consideration dollars and tries to balance everything. Maybe our pricing structure is not in line with what it should be and we should take a look at it.
In regard to the 5-7 pm swim club time slot, Superintendent Bowen stated that since the original pool opened in 1972, the New Trier Swim Club has been swimming in the afternoons and it is one of our six major user groups. At the old pool, it was shut down completely for the club except for the baby pool from 5-7 pm. When the new pool was built 11 years ago, the club was one of our strongest groups who supported the pool referendum and they have been swimming with us ever since.
Superintendent Bowen added that at any one point in time, none of the user groups are actually able to swim exactly when they want to. The pool is a limited resource. The only group that is not affected is the lap swimmers who can swim from 6:30 am. in the morning to 9:00 pm at night. Last fall the Committee asked staff to look into the issue and make a recommendation to allow public swim during the 5:00pm to 7:00 pm time slot. Staff recommended that lap swimming be closed during this time and the swim club lanes be reduced from five to four. That would allow four lanes open four public swim. However, at that time the Committee decided to not make a change in the schedule and to look at it again at the end of this year’s season.
Chair Graham stated that the New Trier Swim Club membership consists of Wilmette residents who have been big supporters of the pool and we would like to continue to work with them. Chair Graham suggested to Ms. Flood that she send an email to him and he will make sure she is on our email list so that when this issue comes up again, we can all sit down and express our views. In September, the Committee will be looking for a better solution.
Ms. Flood stated she has often wondered why the lap swimmer lanes are open so much more than the recreational part of the pool when it is serving a smaller number of people at a time. Also, as far as revenue is concerned, the whole issue of food is tied into this in that if you could offer something healthy and appealing to Wilmette residents, then maybe that would increase revenue. She also does not believe raising rates for Wilmette residents would solve the problem.
Superintendent Bowen provided some statistics which indicated there are 13,400 members, 63% of whom are residents and 33% non-residents. Of those fees, $360,000 is produced by the 33% non-residents and $300,000 is produced by the 66% of residents.
Chair Graham stated that in regard to the diving pool, he had not been aware of any issues. Ms. Flood stated that in general she feels there are too many rules getting in the way of having fun at the pool which also is happening at the beach. She understands rules are important but at some point one has to allow for personal responsibility and good decision-making. Her daughter has been trying to practice a dive she had recently been taught and tried to do a different dive but wasn’t allowed to do that either. Pool Manager Brian Udany stated we do limit some of the dives that are considered too risky and difficult and that are not allowed during public swim since the more complicated dives could result in a serious injury if the instructor isn’t there.
Commissioner Graham thanked Ms. Flood for her well thought out comments and helping us to identify a target for improvement instead. Commissioner Murdock added the Committee will continue to talk about the issues at the pool and thanked her for coming to the meeting tonight.
4) Under Communications and Correspondence, Chair Graham acknowledged receipt of emails from Caroline Cerrone and Megan de Joya related to lap swimming issues and New Trier Swim Club issues at the pool. He added he just received an email from Liza Sullivan today indicating her appreciation of the learn to swim classes at the pool.
Commissioner Brault suggested sending an email blast informing those in our database that the pool facility would be closed for these two swim meets. Brian added staff could also post the announcement on our web site and Twitter accounts. In addition, public notices could be made prior to the swim meets as well.
After further discussion, the Committee agreed to send out emails in our database about the pool facility being closed this week Wednesday for a swim meet and also offer a free beach pass for the inconvenience.
Chair Graham brought up for further discussion the topic of the rules at the diving pool. He understands the safety issues involved and that we don’t want to create hazards at the pool. However, he feels we should take a look at the rules to determine if there are any that can be relaxed to some extent.
Commissioner Benz stated the way diving is set up now is that a student could do a reverse dive during the class with instructor supervision which sounds reasonable to him. Superintendent Bowen added we could also get a clarification on the rules from PDRMA. Commissioner Murdock stated it seemed reasonable to him that when the person is doing the dive, the instructor would be able to help the diver if he falls into the water. However, how does the instructor being there increase the safety for the diver who is making the dive. Brian responded that the instructor knows the skill level of each diver and that the lifeguards can blow their whistles to alert the divers they need to face forward.
Commissioner Brault suggested that a proficiency card could be used which would be approved by their instructor in terms of what they are able to do. Commissioner Murdock stated the divers could show their cards before they dive which Commissioner Graham thought could become problematic. Commissioner Brault suggested staff talk to PDRMA to determine how other facilities handle their diving programs and if they have any recommendations.
5) Under Managers Reports, Brian Udany reported attendance in 2011 through July 9 was 37,720 and our attendance this year for the same timeframe was 65,651. Chair Graham asked for the exact statistics and Superintendent Bowen provided him with the two reports.
Chair Graham stated the other item is the surcharge being added for those higher air temperature days on premium days and that we should figure out a way to deal with this issue of generating greater revenue from residents vs. non-residents.
Superintendent Bowen stated our maximum capacity at any one point in time is 1,645 patrons. Staff has reviewed the daily records and there have been no days that we have actually seen that exact number at the pool at any time. He further added that it could still mean not every patron has a chair which is always a challenge for staff. Chair Graham thought we should examine some alternative pricing strategies in situations like these when there is a huge demand for the pool and have something that would also benefit residents. Commissioner Murdock stated the fees should also be reviewed relative to other pools in the area.
Brian stated that Starguard lifeguard audit went very well even though they showed up on the hottest day of the year. We are very proud of staff for achieving a five-star designation and they did a great job. The auditor was also very experienced and detailed oriented. The Family Night event which provided family members time to swim went very well with 100 people even though the pool had to be closed for two hours because of rain. A second Family Night will be held in July and staff is hoping for better weather.
Commissioner Murdock asked if staff tracks the number of people who are swimming in the lap lanes at different times besides doing that manually. Brian replied that a count is done by the number of check-ins inthe morning. during public swim and other times the lanes are open, there could be anywhere from five to 15 swimmers per lane, depending on the time of day and weather. During hot weather, it has been Brian's experience that no matter how high prices are raised, people would still come to the facility.
Chair Graham stated the idea of a premium fee for prime time or something else for non-residents might make sense and we should look at ways to control overcrowding. Every year that we have bad weather the facility loses money so when you have a year like this, we might as well see what the District can get out of it.
Commissioner Murdock stated the bottom line is that we need to look at different alternatives. He asked that in regard to the lap lanes how much work would it be to have two data points at 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm from now to the end of the summer and to count the number of people swimming. Brian replied staff would be able to do that. Superintendent Bowen stated generally speaking the numbers do vary but the lap lanes are used all day. Commissioner Murdock stated it would help to show people how much the lap lanes are being used.
Tennis Manager Darrell Smith reported the locker room project is in progress and seems to be going well. Pirate Camp is sold out with 305 children and the afternoon camp which is for children age 11-15 is doing slightly better than last year with 84 enrolled compared to 60 last year. This age group is a tough one since there are so many other options available for this age group. Staff is also working on the billing for the first half of the permanent court time season which will go out on August 1. We are also receiving forms for the fall advanced classes – Junior Excellence and Adult Drills.
6) Old Business: None
7) Under New Business, Commissioner Murdock asked that if the pool could be opened on the first weekend of the season at 9 am next year. Brian responded that it could be possible if staffing were available.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned to at 7:05 pm.
Minutes taken by Jeffrey Bowen.
MINUTES APPROVED ON AUGUST 13, 2012.