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City swimming program requires big pool of money

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POSTED May 22, 2013 2:12 a.m.

LATHROP – The City of Lathrop isn’t necessarily swimming in a pool full of money.

But based on the decision that the city council made Monday night, they’re not willing to be drowning in debt either.

More than a month after it was first suggested that city staff look into how much it would cost to construct a pool in the community, the Lathrop council reviewed a pair of options that would have cost the city at least $15,500 monthly – the cost that the Manteca Unified School District wanted every month to partner with the municipality for use of the Lathrop High School pool when it wasn’t being used for events.

After the pool at the Sharpe Defense Depot was no longer made available to the city, Councilman Omar Ornelas – who stepped in and ran the meeting for absent Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal Monday night – asked the city to look into the various options at the city’s disposal for Monday’s meeting.

On one hand there was the $15,500 monthly fee that the city would have to shell out to use the pool at Lathrop High School – following in the same footsteps of Manteca, who opted to contract for the use to the pool at East Union High School when popular summer programs forced the need for expansion.

On the other there was the need for a study – with the price tag estimated between $20,000 and $30,000 – that would determine the feasibility of constructing a pool or aquatic center of its own and working out exactly how much money it would cost to maintain such a venture once the initial capital was invested.

In the end, the council opted to simply have staff contact neighboring communities in Northern California that have their own aquatic centers to find out how they were able to finance them – negating the pitch by Ornelas to pay full-freight for the study out of the capital facilities fee account or the general fund.

“I like the idea of giving our citizens their own things as well,” Councilman Paul Akinjo said. “But they cost money and we need to find a way to fund them.

“We need to figure out a way to pay for the studies to determine whether we can pay for these things without tapping into the general fund.”

Councilwoman Martha Salcedo said that five years ago she herself looked into how much it would cost the city to add a pool to its list of community offerings, and was discouraged by the information that she uncovered. She learned that communities were closing public pools at an alarming rate because the monthly operating expenses were exorbitantly high.

Initially Akinjo wanted to move the pool idea from the capital facilities fee list, where it currently sits, to the list of capital improvement projects – meaning that the city would have to start collecting money specifically for that project and would have to create a five-year plan to execute its construction.

City Manager Steve Salvatore subtly discouraged Akinjo from making that proposal because of the requirements involved, and suggested that staff could get the majority of the information such a proposed study would uncover without having to shell out the money.

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