But soon after the city opened both the Joe Wilson Pool at Dr. Powers Park and the new aquatic center, it learned that it couldn’t afford to run them both.
A stagnant economy meant one of the pools would have to close. As a result, the Joe Wilson pool won’t see any swimmers this summer.
While the city has increased its spending on aquatics — including swimming lessons, water exercise classes and open recreational hours — policy makers still won’t know whether the city will reopen the Joe Wilson Pool until they get a look at the final costs from this summer.
“In my mind, the council would love to have both pools open, if possible,” Mayor Brent Ives said. “Whether that’s on the list of things we will continue to cut will have yet to be seen.”
Ives said the annual midyear budget review, which comes around in January, is when the council has a clearer idea of how much it will cost to open both pools.
“We’ll have some actuals from this year and know more about our true expenses,” Ives said.
The city increased its aquatics budget by nearly 45 percent when it opened the Pinkie Phillips Aquatics Center in June 2008. The city nearly doubled its aquatics budget in anticipation of the 2009-10 season, but then, during the midyear budget review, opted to close one of the pools to save money.
Part of the complication is that the fiscal year starts in July and ends in June, so the city finds out by the end of August whether the budget can still cover the first part of the swim season in May and June of the following year.
City recreation supervisor Floyd Lewis said the city still offers as much as it can in the way of classes and other scheduled pool activities at the West pool.
The difference this year is where Tracy residents can go for swim lessons and classes. Also, Tracy swimmers have 20 hours a week for open recreational swimming — from
3 to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday — when they can drop by just to jump in and splash around. Last year, both pools were used, with similar hours, though the open recreational swim was a couple of hours earlier at Dr. Powers Park.
Open swimming costs $2 per person, with discounted passes available.
On Monday, June 28, as the temperature reached 103 degrees, the shallow end of the West High pool was filled with parents and children, while kids and grownups alike took their turns on the diving board at the deep end.
Most agreed that two pools would be better than one, but they also were grateful that the West pool is available for open swimming a couple of hours each afternoon.
“It’s too bad, but I live right between the two anyway, so it’s OK,” said Steve Palmer, who knows that the other pool was closed because of a tight city budget.
“I think it’s really good that at least they have one pool,” he said. “We have a place for the kids to go. That’s the main thing.”
Others who took their kids to the West High pool Monday said that more than the recreational swim hours, they rely on the city’s other aquatics offerings, such as swim lessons.
“As far as price and everything, I think it’s OK. It really hasn’t affected us, because it’s pretty much the same over here as it is over there,” Steve McNaughton said. “We actually had never been to this pool. We put them in lessons over there, because we were familiar with it.”
Amy Willbanks-Moore said her 3½-year-old son also took swimming lessons through the city.
“They’re not private, but they’re small groups, and I thought that was good,” she said. “It’s a good introduction to the water, for his age.”
She added that having just one pool hasn’t been a problem, and her family still takes advantage of the recreational swim hours.
“It’s nice, because we can come and go as we please.” Tracy’s aquatics budget
• $302,000: The cost to run the Joe Wilson pool in fiscal 2007-08
• $436,000: The cost to run both the Joe Wilson pool and Pinkie Phillips Aquatics Center in fiscal 2008-09.
• $557,000: The amount the city budgeted for aquatics in 2009-10.
• $374,000: The amount the city expects to actually spend for 2009-10, after running both pools in July and August last year and then closing the Joe Wilson pool this summer.
• $416,000: The amount budgeted for 2010-11, with the Joe Wilson Pool closed for at least the rest of this summer. • To reach Bob Brownne about this story, call 830-4227 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.