The Miami Parks and Recreation Board is recommending that fees be raised for public use of the municipal fairgrounds and the city swimming pool. The city council tabled a decision, pending further review.
Tim Wilson, the city's public works director, proposed the changes on behalf of the parks board at a recent council meeting.
Wilson said the board has discussed the fee changes extensively and believes the proposed changes to be fair, based on comparisons made with municipalities of similar size. He also said the increased fees are necessary to allow the City of Miami to recover expenses incurred in employing lifeguards and paying workers for weekend maintenance and cleanup during and after fairground use.
In addition, the parks board is calling for the closure of the Taylor Park wading pool located just off of Steve Owens Boulevard on H Street SE.
Wilson said the pool does not have a filtering system and has drawn several violations from the Ottawa County Health Department.
City workers drain and fill the pool daily for an estimated nine children who use the park, according to Wilson.
Councilman John Dalgarn expressed his concerns regarding maintenance of the Taylor Park pool that sits in his district.
“Why has the parks board been negligent and not maintained this pool and park area?” Dalgarn said.
Wilson said that money is not always available to maintain the wading pool which is one of several city wading pools that are free for children to use. City funds are directed to areas of higher use.
The parks board estimates that it will cost $38,000 to repair the filtering system and make the changes necessary to bring the pool into compliance with the health department, according to Wilson.
Rotary Park also does not have a filtering system, but is better maintained, according to Wilson. That pool, however, is used by more people.
The drive behind the park board's recommendation to raise fees is also pushed by the need to maintain quality lifeguards, according to Wilson and Miami Mayor Brent Brassfield.
“It has gotten to the point that, with the money that we have dedicated to lifeguards, we are not competitive. It is becoming harder and harder to get compitent lifeguards,” Brassfield said. “I have heard Mike (Johnson) say that we are losing potential guards to other communities. That plays into it.
“Most citizens are aware that we started a $1.50 assessment on the utility bill three years ago. Seventy cents of that goes to parks and recreation programming and 80 cents goes to improvements made to the municipal pool.”
Brassfield said he is in favor of looking at possibly raising the prices.
“I would venture to say that we have not raised municipal pool prices for Š maybe ever,” Brassfield said. “This seems pretty much like it was when I was a kid. We are not really in line (with other communities). We now have a nicer pool than most and we have expended a tremendous amount of money. It is not unreasonable to try to find a way to at least break even and that is what we are dealing with.”
Rudy Shultz, the newest member of the city council, voiced his concern that increases will fall “disproportionately upon the families that can probably least afford it in our community.”
Brassfield affirmed Shultz' concerns saying that his fears were valid, but that there was some information that the new council member may not have had time to review.
Brassfield then asked that no action be taken on the agenda item and the parks board bring the recommendations back to the council in the form of independent recommendations.
The council has asked to address the proposed wading pool closure, pool fee increases and fairground fees as individual agenda items.
“I think we need to examine all avenues to see if we can keep Taylor pool,” Brassfield said. “We need to examine opportunites to do something about the wading pool.”