By BECKY KISER
The city of Hays will make a $28,519.39 payment to the Hays Recreation Commission (HRC) to help cover operating losses by the two swimming pools in 2017.
The city contracts with HRC to manage the pools. Their contract requires any operating loss or surplus incurred by HRC to be shared evenly with the city “as long as the Contractor’s portion of the loss does not exceed $26,000.”
According to Director of Parks Jeff Boyle, in 2017 the HRC loss was $54,519.39. Boyle requested the Hays city commission reimburse HRC $28,519.39, the full 50 percent of the loss. Commissioners unanimously approved the request during their Jan. 8 meeting.
Boyle told commissioners “attendance was down this year and weather played a big part in that. We had good rains early in the season, with cool temperatures in June and again in August.”
Comparative statistics provided each year by HRC showed average attendance the Hays Aquatic Park (HAP) for the 79 days it was open was 611 people compared to 686 people during the 78 open days in 2016. Total HAP visitors in 2017 was 48,238 compared to 53,504 in 2016.
Wilson pool had an average of 60 patrons per day compared to 59 patrons per day in 2016. There were 3,772 visitors to Wilson poll last year compared to 3,923 in 2016.
“Ideally, we would like every day to be sunny and in the 90s but realize when operating an outdoor venue, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” wrote HRC Superintendent Roger Bixenman in his note to commissioners.
At the commission’s Jan. 4 work session which was attended by several HRC board members and staff, there was some discussion about possibly increasing admission prices and adding new pool features.
Commissioners agreed the two pools enhance the “quality of life” in Hays.
“When the Hays Aquatic Park was built 17 years ago, people were told it would be a money-maker. From the first year, it was not,” said Vice-Mayor Henry Schwaller. “We are providing a service to the community that no one else will provide, benefiting Ellis County and the surrounding counties as well.”
Schwaller was quick to praise HRC and its staff for keeping the facility in good repair.
“The boilers, the pumps, were not projected to last more than 10 years and we’re now in its 17th year. It’s not uncommon for the costs of maintaining a pool to go up, and they will continue to go up.
“Regarding attendance, we have a lot of ideas of how to boost attendance and boost revenue and we’ll be dealing with that.”
Boyle told the commission the city has $321,000 in pool sales tax reserves.
“We’ve been very diligent as a commission, along with city staff and the HRC in not spending that money,” Schwaller said, “so we can continue to make those improvements and cover those losses for quite some time.”
“From my perspective, this is in the top half of quality of life issues,” Commissioner Sandy Jacobs added. “It’s something for the kids to do in the summer. We have been vigilant and we’re excited to see what you might bring in the future,” she told Boyle.