Janesville City Council restores much of pool cuts

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
— Maybe it was the swim trunks William Hein Jr. wore to the city council chambers Monday that convinced members to restore some of the open swim hours they cut last year to save $15,000.

More likely it was the unusual number of people who urged the council to keep Rockport pool and the city’s wading pools open later at night.

The city will use $6,100 in savings in the leisure services department to keep Rockport pool open two hours later and each of the two wading pools open one hour later each day. The hours should be restored by this weekend.

“I’m absolutely happy,” Hein said after Monday’s meeting.

Councilman Yuri Rashkin predicted last year that residents would protest shorter hours in summer.

Resident Al Lembrich said the council should restore “reasonable hours” so people who work all day could cool down at night.

This is a “quality of life issue,” more so than the more than $100,000 the council recently approved to change the direction of a downtown street, he said.

“Pools and parks provide recreation, rest and relaxation that people need in these busy and stressful times,” Lembrich said. “It’s a real need for lower income and large families who can’t afford higher-priced entertainment.”

About the only discussion among council members was how many hours to restore and at what cost.

A suggestion was made to keep the Palmer Park wading pool open longer than the one at Riverside Park, but several council members said the strong volunteer group at Riverside deserves to have their pool treated equally.

“I don’t want to turn our backs on Riverside Park,” council member Deb Dongarra-Adams said. “This is an absolutely beautiful park.”

City Manager Eric Levitt agreed pools are an important quality of life item. However, the city faces as much as a $2-million gap in its budget in 2012.

The council has consistently opted against reducing the police and fire department budget, which is 60 percent of the budget, he said. That leaves the other 40 percent to absorb all cuts, he said.

Levitt said he would likely suggest another $300,000 cut in administrative costs, including in the city’s recreation department, on top of the $300,000 in cuts in administrative costs last year.

Councilman Russ Steeber said it might also mean people pay more to use the pools, especially because a survey found that cities such as Edgerton charge more for admission to theirs.

Steeber did not say that most pools have more amenities than Janesville’s does.

“The city can’t be everything for everyone at all times,” he said. “I just want people to realize that we may be able to find the money to do it this year—but next year it may cost more for general admission.”

Said Councilman Sam Liebert: “If people think these cuts look bad right now, they haven’t seen anything yet.”

Last updated: 5:55 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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