WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
CENTENNIAL OPERATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: September 19, 2012
Place: Centennial Recreation Complex
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Commissioners: Chair Graham, Benz, Murdock, Brault
Staff: Wilson, Bingham, Bowen, Eppelheimer, Smith, Udany
Visitors: See Attached
Topics of Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Public Comment re: Pool Schedule
4) Committee Discussion
5) Old Business
6) New Business
1) The meeting was called to order at 6:15 p.m.
2) The Committee approved the minutes of the August 13, 2012 Committee meeting by General Consent.
3) Public Comment
Committee Chair Graham welcomed everyone to the meeting and indicated the Committee would be taking public comment in regard to the pool schedule. A total of 100 emails had been received which included comments and suggestions on our efforts to set up a cohesive schedule. Over the last two weeks the Committee has been working on the data related to the scheduling of the pool in order to have a full understanding of the scheduling issues that were raised in those emails.
Chair Graham stated he has been on the Board for six years and understands that every user group has their own issues. This is the dilemma that commissioners and staff deal with every season at all of our facilities although they are really the community’s facilities since residents pay for taxes and user fees. He added that the purpose of tonight’s meeting was to listen and hopefully come up with a fair solution. The emails received have been very thoughtful and some good points have been made.
As an example of a user group, the New Trier Swim Club (NTSC) is a very active group and had been a main focal point as far as scheduling was concerned. The NTSC was a supporter of the pool referendum and through their efforts gained community support which resulted in the pool referendum being passed.. There are also many Wilmette children in the club. Committee Chair Graham pointed out the NTSC is not a high school swimming team but rather it is made up of children age 9 to 13. In addition, several people had offered suggestions on how the schedule could be adjusted to accommodate more people and more residents of all groups. As a result, the Committee and staff had looked at a multitude of different ways to examine the scheduling issues which will hopefully accommodate more people and satisfy some of the concerns from residents. Along with the NTSC there is the Evanston Masters program, the general public, parent-tot classes, therapy sessions, divers and the lap swimmers. Chair Graham the current schedule that was handed out before the meeting.
3) Recognition of Visitors:
Julie Flood, Wilmette resident stated she had attended a previous meeting in August and wanted to thank the Committee for the nice reception she received at that time. Based on that she had encouraged other people to also provide feedback at tonight’s meeting. She is here on behalf of a growing number of Wilmette residents who are disenfranchised and frustrated with the pool because due to issues of what she described as overcrowding, the over-representation of non-residents, the timing of the closed hours of the pool, and the NTSC using the pool during prime time hours. She wanted to encourage the Committee to think about a zero-based planning approach as they think about all of the complex variables that go into this equation and dealing with all of the inconsistencies. She encouraged the Committee to think not in terms of tweaking everything but instead starting over from scratch.
Committee Chair responded the Committee took Ms. Flood’s comments from the last meeting very seriously but it is a fact that we cannot ban non-residents from the pool. However, Ms. Flood’s points about overcrowding especially during prime time and weekends are a concern and we will be looking at pricing changes for both residents and non-residents.
Commissioner Murdock added this issue will also be reviewed during our budget process next month. An analysis was conducted which determined that if we did not allow non-residents into the pool, each resident’s fee would have to more than double which means we would decrease usage by about one-third although that is assuming every resident will continue buy passes. The Committee will review it and probably determine that non-resident rates will go up significantly faster than resident rates largely because of the conversations now taking place. It is also important to remember that non-residents provide benefits to us as well.
Commissioner Shelly stated there is a point somewhere in the middle and believes that nobody wants to eliminate all non-residents but if we raise the rates to a certain extent it will deter some of the non-residents and get the message out that the pool might not be as crowded next season with non- residents. Committee Chair Graham stated that what we should be looking to do is set a fair price for both residents and non-residents.
Jim Thiede, 920 15th Street stated he has two sons age five and eight and his biggest concern is that prime time swimming is at night. The non-residents have kept the pools very crowded and our family has gone less and less. As a result, they are now swimming at Lifetime since they are able to swim at a time which is more convenient. A lot of people feel that the pool is now made up of people from the north side of Chicago and Evanston. He also does not have anything against the NTSC but he sees children that are older than that in the pool and he thinks they could swim at 9 pm instead.
Chris Wieczorek, 736 10th Street stated he and his wife have two small children. He has reviewed the spreadsheet of the pool schedule and he thinks the problem is there are dozens of other residents and users getting “kicked out” of the pool at 5 pm every day and getting asked to leave just so the 12 swim club members can use the pool for two hours during prime time every weekday in the summer. He stated that as a community we need to figure out how to address the utilization of these resources. He has also become aware that the NTSC times were grandfathered to them since they showed their support for the referendum. He also doesn’t believe that their contract has been reviewed or voted upon but has instead been left up to staff. This then is a large commitment of a public resource that does not get reviewed or voted upon by the Park Board.
Commissioner Murdock clarified that the Board does not review or vote on every single contract for every single user group. Additionally, he stated that the swim club has been swimming at this time for many years before the new pool was built. However, some good points have been raised and the point of tonight’s meeting is to find a better way to meet everyone’s needs
Roni Crystal, 250 Vista Court stated he has a wife and two children and has been a Wilmette resident for over eight years so prime time should be first for Wilmette residents and the other groups would then have to fit around them.
Lisa Nieman, 2007 Forest Avenue, stated she is okay with the overall schedule but is concerned about what happens in August when the schedule is reduced. She believes that two years ago the end of the season was better handled than what was done this year when everything went downhill with a lot of areas were closed. In addition, the lap lanes become overcrowded and it is very dangerous with a long line of people waiting. She would also like to keep the pool open from 1 to 8 pm.
Committee Chair Graham stated that one of the issues being discussed is the fact that the schedule is reduced because there is a lack of lifeguards. The pool had the same end of season scedule as last year but because of some staff shortages we did make some modifications and closed some of the pools. Commissioner Murdock then asked Superintendent Bowen to compile the information on end of season closers compared to last year for the next Committee meeting. He Further added that the schedule as been a topic of discussion for several years and significantly improvements have been made on keeping the pool open in late August.
Ms. Neiman indicated there are 34 signatures and emails collected by Louella Levy indicating they would like to see the pool remain open beyond Labor Day and possibly even through October 1. A large number of them said they would be willing to pay to have the pool stay open until September 15 when the average temperature is 80 degrees and beautiful. Committee Chair Graham added that we will continue to explore other ways to recruit staff in order to keep the pool open as long as possible.
Evita Vulgaris, 736 10th Street stated the pool is a public facility and should be available for the public at priority times. She is also a lap swimmer and the lanes have been very well utilized when she is there. However, she doesn’t understand why the NTSC has the hours they have since they should be able to change their schedules as well. The other user groups should also make adjustments.
Janet Stephan, 1136 Greenleaf stated she has lived in Wilmette for 17 years, is a lap swimmer and her daughter swims competitively. She realizes the pool is a huge responsibility but has a sense that it is a bother and that the District would prefer there not be a pool at all. In addition, there seems to be some staff members who are not very friendly which is too bad because most of the time people are laughing and smiling at pools. If there is a shortage of lifeguards, adults could also be trained to fill in when needed. In summary, she would like to have a “bubble” put over the top of the pool and have longer hours.
Candice Lugio, 1239 Maple, stated she would like to have pool access from 5 to 7 pm on weekdays. She also wants to address the issue of the lifeguards and how to keep them. They do not make a lot of money and the adults in this community probably are not going to be motivated to become lifeguards because of the pay. I am a research specialist and research indicates it is better to get people to volunteer and not pay them since people want to feel good about what they’re doing. There are many organizations with Wilmette residents but we should not put them on equal footing with true resident groups although she does want to better understand what people have said about the NTSC.
Committee Chair Graham stated that there are other user groups that do use the facilities and monopolize the facility their using, such as Little League Baseball which has children from Winnetka, Kenilworth and Glenview. The Wilmette Hockey Association (WHA) receives prime time ice which is not available to residents as open ice time. He understands the points made about the NTSC and appreciates what has been said. He stated that we need to look at different ways to structure the schedule in order to accommodate everyone. The NTSC does not have a guaranteed amount of time at the pool and the schedule could be adjusted. However, it is an important user group and there are many Wilmette children involved in it.
Ms. Lugio stated that ideally everyone would be served well enough but she still would not have the ability to sign up for the NTSC so that group excludes a bigger portion of the population who are excluded. In addition, maybe the fees are not high enough for what we could be providing to people. Her family also goes to Lifetime in the summer and she sees a lot of her neighbors and friends there. As a result, these people are essentially paying twice to get just the one product.
Committee Chair Graham indicated that the NTSC campaigned for the pool referendum and the support from these Wilmette families helped to get the referendum passed. Director Wilson emphasized that as a park district we are not allowed to campaign for a referendum and the NTSC did not make any donations. The only thing the NTSC did was to organize the community to get the word out into the community. The group campaigned out of their own volition, the referendum was passed, and there was no quid pro quo.
John Powers stated that when Committee Chair Graham mentioned contributing, he thought it meant that the Park District tried to get the vote out for getting a new pool and raising the referendum to get it passed. Committee Chair Graham responded that he had not been on the Board at that time, no one contributed anything to him for the referendum, and he had nothing to do with the referendum other than voting for it. Mr. Powers stated he thinks it is bad business practice to provide special privileges. Commissioner Murdock stated that this is why we asked everyone here tonight so that we can listen to everyone.
Committee Chair Graham reiterated that the NTSC did not provide anything financial to the Park District. The NTSC has been an active user of the pool for many years and a contributor to the community. His children never belonged to the group but it is a good entity. I also agree with some people here that there are different ways to schedule all of the user groups.
Commissioner Murdock added that the commissioners recognize that there has been a group of Wilmette residents who have wanted to use the pool at a certain time who feel they have been disenfranchised. In the past, more families ate dinner together from 5 to 7 pm each night. That has since changed in today’s world. As a
result, whether through tradition or something else, we want to be able to fix those issues that have resulted in people feeling disenfranchised.
Susan Parker, 2018 Greenwood, stated she has lived here for almost seven years and the pool and the other park district facilities were the reasons they moved here from the city. However, we are now about to become former patrons of the pool since the main pool is not open when her family would like to use it. She knows of at least 45 families who have sent emails indicating they would be happy with a 50% or 70% increase in fees if fewer non-residents were there. She knows the pool needs to run like a business but last year she met six families who came from Hyde Park because they said this was the best deal in Chicagoland. She assumes we would rather the pool be known as the best resource for Wilmette residents. Her children also have said the pool is too crowded and they have only been to the pool five times this season.
David Lieberman, 912 12th Street stated he lives in Wilmette and has four children who have used a lot of Park District programs. He is grateful for all the programs and thinks the pool is a gem. He also thinks the staff is very friendly and helpful and great including the people at the desk at 6:30 am. His children enjoy the pool as well and he is an avid lap swimmer, usually in the morning but sometimes from 5 to 7 pm. The pool is crowded during those hours but if the number of lap swimming lanes was decreased, it probably wouldn’t work. He also doesn’t have any association with the NTSC but does appreciate their efforts. He asked if lap swimming could maybe start at 6 am instead of 6:30. He would also pay to have more guards and more hours. In summary, he would hate to see any reduction in the number of the lap swimming lanes.
Louisa Kunzler, 1130 Oakwood stated she thinks the pool is one of the best assets in Wilmette and was one of the reasons why they chose to live in Wilmette. She has issues with the hours and agrees with the 5 to 7 pm swim time. In addition, the overcrowding issue is dangerous since it’s difficult to locate her children sometimes. She also thinks the bathrooms were disgusting this past summer. She believes that non-residents are a problem and suggests limiting the amount of non-residents by doubling their prices along with not allowing non-residents to buy daily passes. She encouraged the Committee to look at Lincolnwood’s pool policy. In addition, every single person in the baby pool this summer was from Bucktown.
Commissioner Murdock stated the Committee had discussed the condition of the women’s lockers room this summer and after talking to staff, she should be seeing an improvement next year. Commissioner Shelly stated that in regard to the overcrowding of the baby pool vs. the leisure pool, perhaps we could expand the hours in the morning to the leisure pool, especially families with children ranging in age from 1 to 7. Ms. Kunzler stated she has children who still nap so they like to go the pool from 5 to 6 pm. Superintendent Bowen added that the pool has never gone above the 1,645 maximum capacity number.
Jen Truszkowski, 1746 Washington stated they have lived in Wilmette for five years and they call Centennial their “country club”. She is concerned about some safety issues which occur when the hours are reduced at the end of August and the lap swimming lanes get busier. If the Committee is looking for a threshold for residents of what they would pay, I would consider polling the residents. She would even pay three times more to not have to drag her screaming children out of the pool before the swim club uses it. She also feels a lot of residents would pay more to use the pool.
Kara Garziano 1762 Highland Avenue stated she has four children ranging in age from 11 to 2 so her family uses all of the pools. She agrees with what everyone else has said about the 5 to 7 pm time period which is a crucial time and a big mistake to keep it for the NTSC. She doesn’t think it’s a question of accommodating or changing lanes or doing half-hour increments. When her family supported the District 39 referendum, we did not get any sort of preferential treatment for our children just because I handed out flyers, etc. She believes it is part of what a District does when you are part of a community. If that is what the NTSC did then that’s great but it had been their choice. They are not entitled to anything as far as where they swim.
Eric Vandergraaf, 2923 Old Glenview Road, stated he sits on the NTSC Board and just to clarify, the swim club presently has just under 200 families as members, 133 of whom are from Wilmette. There are approximately 290 active children on the team ranging from age 6 to high school and some graduated from the New Trier School District. He stated we see ourselves as a resource for the community and do not recruit anyone outside of the New Trier District. Most of the swimmers come from Wilmette and the organization has grown. This season’s tryouts had 200 children come out for 80 spots without any advertising. We also use New Trier East, West and Loyola. New Trier East is usually under repair since it’s the oldest pool. If we could get more pool time, we could bring in more children. The Centennial facility is the only 50-meter pool in the area and the children range in ability from beginners to elite athletes. This year we sent five children to the Olympic trials. We are very flexible since we’re also made up of the people from this community and we pay $100 per year per family to have our children swim here. He does understand the frustration when families are unable to use the lap pool for recreation but we are just trying to provide the best experience for our young children as they move through the program. As a result, the team humbly asks that you consider that a lot of these swimmers are also residents who are willing to pay whatever they have to swim at the facility. The NTSC is also willing to be flexible on times and could move from this time slot.
Commissioner Graham stated that pricing is something the Committee will be looking at for all areas of the pool including residents and the NTSC.
Commissioner Shelly asked Mr. Vandergraaf if he could confirm who was swimming from 5 to 7 pm in the past year out of the five lanes. Mr. Vandergraaf replied he is unable to specifically answer that since the NTSC is there on a different day every day of the week. Most of the groups range from high school children down to those aged 11-12. These ages get preferential treatment for Centennial since they are the ones who are going to swim competitively. There are also high school students who are in the club who swim. Bob Keyser, the coach of the NTSC, would be able to provide more specific information.
Louella Levy, 726 Greenleaf stated she has lived here for over 30 years and is a lap swimmer. Three years ago she wrote a letter along with her friends to the Wilmette Life in regard to the lap swimmers reduced hours during the whole summer because management or staff didn’t think they could do lap swimming and lessons at the same time. As a result, the pool was blocked for lessons from 9:30 am to noon and then while the lifeguards were sitting in their chairs, the pool was closed for all swimmers from noon to 1 pm. So they put together a petition, wrote a letter and approached staff. This August they gathered another 36 signatures from the lap swimmers who came between the morning hours and noon. She would like the see the pool fully staffed and remain open until at least September. People would be happy to pay for a September extension and would even pay for the whole month.
Superintendent Bowen added that the consistently over the last several years, the resident use of the facility is 61% residents and non-residents is 39%. The residents contribute 40% of the revenue and non-residents 60%.
Lora Dubin, 1001 Cherokee Road stated the email regarding the poor condition of the women’s locker room came from her but nothing happened until she sent in photos of how bad everything looked. She would also like to have the pool open later into September. On many occasions small children have jumped into the lap lanes and she would prefer to swim when it’s not so busy. She asked if there was any way they could have an early or late season during the day. When the hours are cut back for the swimmers, they still all swim anyway and it just gets too crowded during those shortened hours.
Phil Dodson, 815 Linden Avenue stated he has been a resident of Wilmette for 27 year, has three children and is an avid lap and an Evanston Master swimmer and swims six days a week. As a member of the team he is most appreciative of being able to access the pool. He sees a lot of lap swimmers and thinks it would be feasible to extend the schedule into September since you will receive a lot of demand for that time.
Robin Richardson, stated she is a master swimmer and is also on the NTSC Board and they are very grateful for their morning and night times. He would also like to invite the lap swimmers to join them.
Kathryn Smith, 721 Greenwood, stated she has five children with the youngest being 10 and the oldest 20. Several of them have also been on swim teams. Other than the hours, she would love it if the pool would stay open through September because then she could utilize the pool much more often. She also has some issues about the lanes since it seems there are a lot of children around and people are not swimming correctly which is annoying. Committee Chair Graham stated that staff would follow-up on that.
Phil Dodson stated he is not a lap swimmer but does swim with his toddlers. He feels the last group to be restricted is the public lap swimmers and he is in favor of the 5-7 pm time slot. The NTSC is a great organization but not all of the members are Wilmette residents which is a concern.. Staff seems to be kicking out dozens of people in favor of about 12 others and it doesn’t seem that the pool is providing the most amount of resource for the most people.
Commissioner Murdock agreed that changes need to be made. He believes the public should have access during the entire 5 to 7 pm time period. He also specifically asked the staff to count the number of lap swimmers. From mid-July until the end of the season we counted how many people were swimming in those three lanes at 5:30 pm and at 6:30 pm every day in the summer. The average turned out to be 10 swimmers at 5:30 pm and 12 swimmers at 6:30 pm on average.
Roger Richards; Everyone is talking about the 5-7 pm window but nobody has talked about the 7-9 pm window. The timeframe of 8:30 to 10 pm would work if you could keep it open for the masters without infringing on their time. If you went from 8:30 to 10 am on the three nights that aren’t being used, it would probably not cause anyone to complain. He would also keep the lap swimmers where they are and also give them the 8:30 to 10 pm time slot for the NTSC on the nights the managers aren’t there. They may lose a little bit but it is better than nothing but he just wants that 7-9 pm time slot to be important
Katherine Smith On Sunday mornings at 8:45 am there is usually no one at the pool although once in awhile there is a lesson. At the end of the summer it was really wonderful to be able to get in the pool at 9 or 11 am on a Sunday morning. She thinks the pool should be open for lap swimming all summer.
4) Committee Discussion:
Commissioner Murdock stated to Mr. Vandergraaf of the NTSC that he wanted to send a message to his group from him personally. He believes that there needs to be open swimming time for residents who are not necessarily lap swimmers or on the swim team every day from 5 to 7 pm which would mean there would have to be some sort of adjustment for the swim club, the lap swimmers or a combination of both. He thinks the lap swimmers should have a large amount of time which they currently do so he doesn’t know exactly what the solution would be. He suspects that the lap swimmers will have to give up something and the NTSC would have to give more. He hopes that we can find a way wherein we do not decrease the number of lap lane hours because of the swim club but there may be very different times such as later in the evening, Sunday mornings, etc. He would like to find enough time so that the NTSC can enjoy the 50-meter pool as well but probably not nearly as much prime time. He was surprised to find out this year that part of the diving pool is closed for the swim club and he erroneously thought it was the diving program but the club was using it for other purposes. In his opinion, he would like to see that time go back to the public. He then asked Mr. Vandergraaf if he would be willing to go back to his group and let them know that at least some of the Commissioners see some significant changes on the horizon and that we would like to find a way to still give time to the NTSC that doesn’t interfere with the public as much. We just want to find a way to work together with the NTSC. Mr. Vandergraaf replied that the NTSC would take whatever time was provided.
Commissioner Benz thanked everyone for attending this meeting which was filled with good representative ideas. What he got out of the meeting was more than he had anticipated because of the expansion of the ideas which went well beyond just the two-hour time period on Monday through Friday. The Committee will be reviewing all aspects of the schedule and he believes the user groups will be hearing from the Committee well into the winter.
Commissioner Shelly stated that she is not a voting member of this committee. She thinks it is very clear that the 5-7 pm time is very important. She was surprised to hear that there were children in the club age 13 and older since she was told specifically last year that it consisted of younger children so we should confirm that. There are a lot of options available but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the 5-7 time slot which is prime time. She is in favor of reassessing the whole scheduling grid since there were some areas that we didn’t have time to address tonight. The fact that the baby pool is open from 9 am–12 noon and that the leisure pool is not open is probably as big of a problem as the 5-7 pm time. She also thinks the practice of closing the pool from 12 noon-1 pm should be reviewed. When she hears from non-residents who say this pool is the best deal around, she thinks it’s too bad since there are so many Wilmette families who don’t come to the pool anymore because of so many people from outside of Wilmette. This was not the original intent for the pool. She supported the referendum 12 years ago and was thrilled to have the pool but every year it gets more crowded. She appreciates all of the conversation on how to keep the pool open later in the fall and knows that staff has worked hard on the schedule. However, maybe they should work on hiring more staff as well.
Committee Chair Graham stated he thought a lot about the schedule and in going through all the emails, he felt we do need to change the schedule and we need to open up the 5-7 pm time slot for the general swimmers. He personally doesn’t want to see the swim team removed which would be a terrible mistake. As a result, we need to figure out a way to accommodate the swim team and provide them with lanes although perhaps in a way that allows the public to use the pool at the same time. He likens the NTSC to some of the other neighborhood-based organizations such as Little League, the Hockey Association, and other groups that are good for the community and an outlet for our children. He wants to find a way to accommodate them but at the same time open up the 5-7 time period to the public. All the comments about extended hours into September have been brought up in the past but we should review them again. We should also explore different ways to generate interest in lifeguarding so that we can keep the pool open longer.
Committee Chair Graham asked that staff examine the schedule and come up with three alternatives for our next meeting that provide opportunities for the public during the 5-7 pm and at the same time provide access for the NTSC. The Committee also previously looked at the rates and will continue to review price differentials for residents and non-residents.
Committee Chair Graham thanked everyone for attending tonight’s meeting and stated that the next meeting will be held in October at a date to be determined so people should check the Park District’s web site for updates: (www.wilmettepark.org).
6) Old Business: None
7) Under New Business: None
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned to at 7:05 pm.
Minutes taken by Jeffrey Bowen.
MINUTES APPROVED ON OCTOBER 8, 2012.