Calexico Chronicle / IV Weekly

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El Centro Still Debating Fees as Aquatic Center Opening Looms

September 6, 2019

     El Centro's new $16 million Aquatic Center that cost years in planning and financing to bring to reality is scheduled to open Sept. 21 with a ceremony at 8:30 a.m.

         

     Yet having second thoughts regarding admission fees and rentals of facilities, the El Centro City Council reviewed several scenarios and chose mostly a middle course at its Sept. 3 meeting.

         

     A final vote on the fees could come at the council’s next meeting on Sept. 17, officials said.

         

     Miklos Valdez, representative for Counsilman-Hunsaker, a Los Angeles consultancy focused on operations and auditing aquatic facilities, presented three possible fee/rental charges to help recover the cost of operating the facility at Fifth Street and Park Avenue each year.

         

     The first scenario, drafted in August, set rates at a 29-percent re-capture rate for 2020 that gradually increases to 34 percent by 2024. This plan would require the city to subsidize the aquatic center for $1.2 million out of the general fund yet is not sustainable, noted Council Member Jason Jackson.

         

     "We decided on a combination of all three fee structures but they will not be approved of until the next meeting," said Mayor Pro Tem Efrain Silva. "The actual cost of operations is $23 per hour. But we don't want to do that, it's too expensive for the average resident. So, we want to keep the costs as low as possible and maintain fiscal responsibility."

         

     Therefore the council is leaning toward setting individual admissions at $5 for city residents and $8 for nonresidents. Other costs retained from the August proposed fees include: swim lessons for $45 per session, water fitness $5 per class, lifeguard certification $200 per session and water safety instructor certification $200 per session.

         

     Rentals retained from the August proposed amounts include: swim meet rentals at $189 per hour, lane rentals at $27 (peak hours: 10-11 a.m., 1-3 p.m., 8-9 p.m.), master swimming $30 per month, summer league $130 per swimmer and a summer pass at $75 for June through August.

         

     "These are proposed fees," pointed out Silva. "The council can lower fees but cannot increase them without holding a public hearing. For private rental of the facility we'll need to recover the entire cost of use in combination with the mid-range option."

         

     For those desiring to rent the full pool (non-peak hours only), using the mid-range cost recovery (57 percent), it would cost $578 per session (two-hour limit) in 2020 but $668 by 2024. That same rental under 100 percent cost recovery would be $806 in 2020 and $ 931 in 2024.

         

     Similarly, a birthday party per two-hour session in the party room would be $300, the multipurpose room $105 per hour, the competition pool $282 per hour while the leisure pools would be $296 per hour, all during the 2020 season.

         

     Council Member Tomas Oliva noted a word of caution.

 

     "What I'm concerned about is we may price out a lot of families (with 100 percent cost recovery)," he said. "Who will pay $1,000 for a family for a full pool rental? There are many friends across Imperial Valley who go to Yuma to use the pool. But the mid-range recovery seems to make sense."

         

     Council Member Cheryl Viegas Walker, tele-conferencing from New York City, also supported the mid-range cost recovery to keep individual fees low as possible.

         

     "But families with disposable income are willing to get seasonal and annual passes, compared to the recreational opportunities offered at Ricochet (trampoline park in Imperial) or the Strike Zone (El Centro bowling lanes), " said Walker.

 

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