Parkersburg City Council’s Public Works Committee amends pool rate hike

Council holds public hearing on budget

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce speaks during a discussion of proposed increases to the prices of daily admission and season passes to the City and Southwood Park pools during a City Council Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday in the executive conference room on the second floor of the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Parkersburg City Council’s Public Works Committee reduced the administration’s proposed increases for pool admissions, creating separate rates for those who live in the city and non-residents.

The amended ordinance was referred to the full council for a first reading in two weeks during a committee meeting Tuesday before a regular session of council that included a hearing on the $33.8 million city budget.

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce’s administration pitched to council a new fee structure with the same prices for both the City and Southwood Park pools and their respective amenities — the under-construction splash pad and the waterslide.

Daily admission to both pools is currently $3.50 for ages 4-12 and $4 for ages 13 and up. The waterslide is $1 a slide or five for $3. A season pass to the City Park pool is $35 for an individual and $115 for a family, while the rates for Southwood, including the waterslide, are $45 and $135.

The administration’s proposal would have made daily admissions $5 for ages 3-17, seniors 55 and older and veterans; $7 for ages 18-54; and free for active-duty military and city employees. Passes would have been $90 for kids, seniors and veterans and $112 for other adults. Family passes were $225 for a family of four, plus $50 for each additional member. There are no separate charges for the splash pad or waterslide.

Parkersburg City Councilman Jeff Fox talks about proposed rates for the City and Southwood Park pools during a meeting of council’s Public Works Committee on Tuesday in the executive conference room on the second floor of the Municipal Building. Fox proposed charging city residents a reduced rate, an idea that was approved by the committee and forwarded to the full council. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

The pass prices were based on 20 visits and discounts of 10 percent on the children, seniors and veterans and $20 for adults. The family passes were discounted 44 percent, Finance Director Eric Jiles said.

Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl, who is not a member of the committee, noted that still nearly doubled the family passes from their current rates.

“I’m just concerned about that,” she said.

Councilman John Reed, a committee member, said even the increased prices won’t cover all the costs, so the question was whether to ask more of the people using the pools or the taxpayers who may not utilize the facilities.

“My big concern is how much the people who don’t use the thing are having to subsidize it,” he said.

Parkersburg resident Jennifer Bryant speaks during a public hearing on the city’s budget at Tuesday’s City Council meeting in council chambers at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Joyce and Jiles said the Schools to Pools program, which provides free pool passes for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, will continue.

Councilman J.R. Carpenter asked what the hourly costs were to operate the pools and what the rates would need to be to break even. Jiles said he did not have an hourly breakdown and breaking even would require at least tripling the proposed rates.

Joyce said the rates could be adjusted somewhat but the pools are not going to break even.

“I assure you we are going to lose money on the pools this year and next year and probably forever,” he said. “The bottom line is we want people, young people, in the pool.”

Councilman Jeff Fox suggested borrowing a page from the Marietta Aquatic Center’s book and offering a lower rate for city residents.

Parkersburg Finance Director Eric Jiles outlines the proposed pool admission increases during a City Council Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday in the executive conference room on the second floor of the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Carpenter made a motion to reduce the family rate to $200 for four people and $25 for each additional member for city residents. Fox made a motion to cut the daily admission price to $4 for kids, seniors and veterans and $6 for others, regardless of residency. He also proposed individual season passes of $75 for residents in the discounted groups and $95 for adults. The prices for non-residents would be $90 and $110.

The committee voted 3-2, with Reed and Chairman Dave McCrady opposed, to approve Fox’s amendment. The motion for Carpenter’s, related to family passes, was approved 5-0. The first reading of the ordinance will appear on the March 26 council agenda.

Some residents addressed pool rates in the public hearing on the budget during Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

Jennifer Bryant said Parkersburg Pride, a nonprofit group providing social and educational resources for the LGBTQ community, was planning to hold a couple of events at a city pool but would be unable to if the proposed rental rates increased from $80 an hour to $380 for two hours and $570 for three hours with up to 50 people. She also asked council to reconsider the rate increases in general.

“The people that are on fixed incomes, those huge jumps are monumental,” she said. “I would hate to see what we’ve already paid for be priced away from the people who need it most.”

Bryant and Debbie Shahan also questioned the inclusion of raises for multiple department heads in the budget. Council members voted 6-3 to pass a non-binding resolution in February endorsing a 3.2 percent raise for all employees except elected officials, department heads and police officers, who received a $2.53-an-hour raise last fall.

“I do have a problem that the department heads are going to get a pay raise,” Shahan said. “Sorry, $72,000 in Parkersburg, W.Va., is a nice wage.”

After the meeting, Joyce said past councils and administrations had excluded department heads in citywide raises.

“All that does is create a narrower gap, more disparity,” he said.

The result is larger jumps later to keep the positions’ pay competitive, Joyce said.

“Just because they’re administration doesn’t mean they’re not working hard,” he said. “The market should always dictate what you pay.”

Council continues its hearings on the budget at 6 p.m. today, looking at the Fire and Police departments. Another hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, if needed, for callbacks. The final budget hearing is slated for 6 p.m. Monday, when amendments will be considered.

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