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Janesville resident hot as budget cuts force shorter pool hours

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
June 21, 2011
— In the heat of the summer, Janesville residents are feeling budget cuts made last fall.

William Hein Jr. was not happy when he discovered the city is opening Rockport Pool an hour later and closing it an hour earlier.


The council last fall shaved the operating hours of the three water facilities by two hours to save $15,000.


Wading pool hours were reduced from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in 2010 to noon to 6 p.m. this year.


Rockport Pool was open from 12:30 to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in 2010 and now closes at 5 p.m. The pool was open from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays but this year is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday hours are the same as last year—12:30 to 5 p.m.—to accommodate evening swim lessons.


Hein was set to distribute fliers in protest until he talked to council President George Brunner.


Hein said Brunner was “real decent to me,” and Brunner told Hein that Brunner would see what could be done to adjust the hours so the pool could be kept open later in the day.


Hein said he bought a ream of paper and a new ink cartridge just in case.


Eric Levitt, city manager, said the council would face decisions on more reductions to services to balance the 2012 budget.


“Unfortunately, I see even deeper and broader cuts coming in 2012,” he said.


Many cities across the United States are closing their pools, Levitt said.


During budget discussions last year, Councilman Yuri Rashkin urged residents to come to the budget public hearing to protest the cuts in aquatic hours. Nobody showed.


“After all, what is the point of having these facilities and spending money to repair them if we are not going to keep the pools open and fully accessible to the residents?” Rashkin asked at the time.


If nobody shows, “Then the people have spoken,” he said.


Rashkin made a motion to restore the hours at the wading pool at a cost of $6,000. No other council member seconded his motion.


That's about 20 cents per household, Rashkin said.


“This amount surely will seem small in comparison with the disappointment and frustration felt by children and families when, in the middle of the summer, our pools will open later and shut down (earlier),” Rashkin said.


Hein bought a $73 season pass for his family this year because he used Rockport Pool so often last year.


But this year, with the closing time at 5 p.m., his daughter’s boyfriend doesn’t even get home from work in time to go swimming, he said.


“I feel that they can come up with the money somehow,” Hein said.


Since the city must pay to operate the pumps and filters, he doesn’t see how keeping the pool open another two hours a day would make the city go broke.


“As much money as the city spends, it just seems ridiculous to me,” Hein said.


City officials asked Hein where he would suggest finding the money, Hein said.


Hein suggested cutting the hours of the people whose job it is to search out code violations in the Fourth Ward and Look West neighborhoods.


“Why do we need people going to look in people’s back yards to make sure they don’t have junk cars?” he said.


Brunner received two complaints from residents, one of whom included Hein.


Brunner said he, too, is concerned about closing out working people.


Brunner said he would investigate whether public swim could be allowed during lap swim time as it was last year. Lap swim is held after open swim is closed. Fewer lifeguards are required during lap swim, which is why open-swim users are asked to leave this year.


Riverside Wading Pool draws few patrons

The Janesville City Council last year reduced hours at Rockport Pool and the wading pools so the council could keep all three pools open.


“Unfortunately, more than half the time so far this season, Riverside Wading Pool has had fewer than 15 individuals in attendance throughout the day,” said Eric Levitt, city manger.


The council budgeted $44,000 to operate Riverside Wading Pool. Members saved $15,000 by reducing hours at all facilities by two hours.


Attendance numbers show Palmer Wading Pool with the highest percentage of users at 49 percent. Rockport follows with 42 percent and Riverside has 9 percent.


From June 2010 through June 19, 2011, Palmer had 32,450 swimmers; Rockport, 28,184 swimmers; and Riverside, 5,878.


During that period, Palmer Wading Pool was closed for three days for repair, and Riverside Wading Pool was closed for one day.


Friends of Riverside Park pushed to reopen Riverside Wading Pool to draw people to the park.


Group members put in numerous volunteer hours and believe that the wading pool is crucial to the park’s success. Former Councilman Bill Truman championed the reopening of the wading pool, which had been closed because of budget and flooding concerns.



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