For the first time in history, the city has leased the Aquatics Center to an outside company. Sierra Madre residents had a chance to meet publicly with Waterworks Aquatics representatives Saturday to discuss concerns over new pool hours, class formats and increased prices.
One of the major changes that residents voiced displeasure with is the smaller teacher-to-student ratio for group swim lessons and the increased cost. Group swim lessons will jump from $35 for five lessons to $75 for five lessons. They'll also fall from 40 minutes to 20 minutes.
Waterworks representative Todd Sarkaria said that their group lessons are more hands-on and extensive than the past program.
“Our curriculum is a little different, but we get a lot of results from our lessons,” Sarkaria explained.
The group class size will only have three to four students at a time.
“Our coaches are more hands on,” Sarkaria said. “I really encourage you to see what we do in the water… the price may be more, but the amount of progress you’ll see in a shorter amount of time is pretty relative,” Sarkaria said.
Other price changes include: Water Aerobics increasing from $4 to $9 per class, single lap swim admission going from $3.50 to $6 per person, and a monthly pass increasing from $34 to $60.
The price for a single private swim lesson will actually drop from $30 to $29.
Other concerns raised included the pool temperature for lap swimmers, which will be set at 88 degrees, and whether programs in conjunction with area schools will continue, such as the annual Sierra Madre Middle School boat contest.
Sarkaria said Waterworks may reduce the temperature by a few degrees, and said he has already spoken with area schools and the events will continue. He also said he welcomes community suggestions. “We welcome as much feedback as possible, we are a very flexible company we really try to work to streamline the programs,” Sarkaria said.
Some residents said the prices were too high and they would have to find other options for their kids, while others welcomed the new hands-on programming.
Sarkaria noted that nothing is set in stone at this point and that Waterworks will continue to listen to the community concerns and will set a follow-up meeting in the future.
The transition from city operation to Waterworks operation will officially begin on June 9.
See a full list of the fee changes below.
What Will Happen to Public and Evening Swim?
Community Services Director Elisa Weaver has been working closely with Waterworks to make them aware of community concerns about changes to pool programming.
Two programs, public swimming and night lap swimming, which were not in Waterworks’ original plan, have been added to the schedule. In addition, the pool will be open year-round.
Pool Facility Upgrades
As part of the partnership, Waterworks will take over costs for pool upkeep and repairs- including the pump and heating system, which Mayor Josh Moran described as “literally held together with duct tape.” They will also be repairing leaky showers.
Why Was The Pool Leased?
Mayor Moran noted financial reasons for the decision for the 28-month lease, including the loss of the city’s redevelopment monies, which would have been used for repairs at the pool; ; and the hit of over $1.2 million the city took in damage clean-up from .
The lease will earn the city $103,594 for fiscal year 2012-13.
Speaking before approximately 30 people, Mayor Moran said this was a tough decision, as he has a personal connection to the pool himself.
“This is a place that is near and dear to me. I learned how to swim at this pool. I worked at this pool during high school and college... it was not an easy decision, but it was a decision we had to make,” Moran said.
City Manager Elaine Aguilar was also present, along with Councilmembers Nancy Walsh, John Capoccia and John Harabedian.
Waterworks has been around since 2004, and runs similar aquatics programs in Irvine, Huntington Beach, Carlsbad and Beverly Hills.
Residents can contact Waterworks at (310) 277-7775.
The Aquatics Center is located at 611 E. Sierra Madre Blvd.
A Closer Look at the Fee Changes
The following is a chart of City pool fees versus Waterworks Aquatics' fees. Note that Sierra Madre's fees are based on a three-month summer program while Waterworks' program is based on a year-round program.