MERIDEN — The City Council voted this week to increase fees for access to Meriden’s public pools to defray maintenance costs.
The increase will take effect next year, with the cost for adult residents raised from $15 to $20 and children $5 to $10 for a full year of access. For non-residents, the year-long pass has a steeper price increase — rising from $20 for adults to $40, and for children $15 to $20.
In a 10-2 vote, the council voted to approve the motion on the recommendation of the Public Works/Parks & Recreation Committee, which said that the fee increase was necessary considering the reality of maintaining the city’s three public pools in the face of limited revenue gains.
The current cost to maintain the pools is $60,000 annually, though the current revenue from yearly pass sales sits at around $16,000, a little over a fourth of the flat maintenance cost. With the changes, the city anticipates $7,500 to $8,000 in additional funds — raising overall revenue to $24,000. While it would still be little more than a third of the overall cost to keep the pool running, Councilor Nicole Tomassetti noted that this would free up funds for “other purposes including expanding programs and things of that nature.”
According to Councilor Larue Graham, vice chairman of the parks & recreation committee, part of the reason for the cost adjustment was due to the doubling in price of materials like chlorine — an important component of keeping the pools sanitary. The increase in the minimum wage for lifeguards was also a partial factor in the decision.
“It’s not about the revenue, it’s about the additional costs as well,” Graham said. “Some added costs. The price of chlorine has almost doubled in the past two years in addition to minimum wage increasing over the past three years from $12 to $15 and we usually pay our lifeguards a little bit more than minimum wage.”
The vote was not unanimous, however, with Minority Leader Dan Brunet and Ray R. Ouellet, both Republicans, believing it is unnecessary to increase fees for the public to make use of the pools, as the revenue gained overall would be minimal and — outside of the pool at Hubbard Park — the school district is charged with maintaining the other two public pools at Maloney and Platt high schools.
Beyond that, both felt that it put an undue burden on residents who want to continue to make use of the public facilities. Ouellet suggested that the fee increases should only be for out-of-town visitors.
“I really felt that it’s petty in nature,” Brunet said. “Minimal revenue, folks are paying taxes already. Also what’s interesting is they’re only maintaining the outside pool, Hubbard Park pool, for three months yet the board of ed maintains the two other pools … they’re the ones who maintain the two other pools for the winter. So this here would be for three months of maintenance of an outside pool and revenue is so minimal I don’t believe we should touch it.”