November 21, 2014

Elyria
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Avon officials seek experts in logistics of running pool

AVON — It’s no secret how the future Avon Municipal Aquatic Facility will look.

Over the past several weeks, city officials and Rocky River-based architectural and engineering firm Sixmo, Inc., have described a facility that will includes a 50-meter, eight-lane competitive pool and separate recreation pool with two 35-foot water slides and water park-style features.

But who will operate it?

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department does not have the required skills to treat the water, run the pumping stations and maintain an aquatic facility or the manpower to deliver programs, operate concessions and man lifeguard stations.

According to Avon Parks and Recreation Director Diane Corrao, the city is seeking operational answers.

“Most likely there will be an outside party running the pool the first year or two, or maybe even three, we don’t know yet,” Corrao said.

Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen said the city considered an approximate $280,000 plan with St. Louis-based aquatics company Counsilman-Hunsaker, which initially proposed helping with the pool’s design and handling first-year operations.

But city officials felt this price tag was too steep, and would prefer the operation of the pool stay under the guidance of local experts.

“Right now we’re in the fact-finding mode of this process,” Jensen said. “I would say before November we will have a program in place, and we will definitely have everything set up before the pool opens.”

Jensen said Avon may consider input from the Lorain County Metro Parks or YMCA, and they recently sought the advice of officials in Avon Lake who operate the $4.2 million Ellen Trivanovich Aquatic Facility, opened in 2010, which replaced the city’s community pool that had existed since 1962.

“We had a recent meeting with Avon Lake,” Jensen said. “Because they had a pool for all those years, before the complex they now have, they still had a lot of people with knowledge in place. This is going to be a first time for us, so we don’t want to take it on and learn as we go.”

Corrao echoed the mayor’s sentiments.

“Avon wants to do this right,” Corrao said. “We don’t want to walk in thinking we can handle everything. We are not shy in getting help.”

Avon Lake Recreation Director Gary Gerrone said the Ellen Trivanovich Aquatic Facility is run completely in-house. The city realizes revenue and expenses in four operational areas — admission, concessions, maintenance and aquatics.

In 2012, it cost Avon Lake $265,000 to operate the facility and $235,000 in 2013, Gerrone said, with costs varying based on weather and the number of days the pool could be open. He added that the city is just about breaking even now and recovering costs through membership fees and other sources.

Gerrone said beyond cost, the real question is if a city can meet health and safety standards while also serving the community in an effective manner.

“Those are the questions that initiate any level of success,” Gerrone said. “I think (Avon) is taking the right approach to make sure they can provide that. They have a lot of really good ideas and I’m impressed. I’m very excited to see what they put in the ground.”

Jensen said the city definitely wants to operate their new facility independently, but it will take some time before that’s an option.

“We’ll probably do one-year contracts starting out,” Jensen said. “And if we feel confident the following year that we can handle it then we will.”

Jensen said whomever the city chooses won’t call all the shots – the city will have an equal decision in all pool-related matters and programming.

“We won’t just hire someone to run this outright,” Jensen said. “It will be a collaboration.”

The city likely will begin selling pool memberships in January or February.

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or jwysochanski@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski.