Turlock council waits on pool closure move

TURLOCK — It's up to you whether kids get to swim at the high schools this summer.

The Turlock City Council on Tuesday night put off a decision to cancel recreational swim sessions at Turlock and Pitman high schools as a cost-cutting measure, giving potential donors time to save the programs.

"This is the situation we find ourselves in," said Allison Van Guilder, interim division manager of the Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Department. "I would tell you this is probably one of several (budget cuts) that will be coming before you over the next several months as we work toward reducing the budget gap."

At risk are Monday-through-Friday sessions at both high schools; the city-owned Columbia Pool would remain open seven days a week.

Councilwoman Mary Jackson said she was concerned about children looking for other places to swim if the pools aren't open.

Councilman Ted Howze countered that the council needs to make big cuts to balance its budget.

"Every action is tough," he said. "Since when did government become baby-sitters of people's kids? I think we're making excuses for not balancing our budgets."

Jackson argued that the estimated savings of $18,000 wasn't worth it.

"Frankly, council member Howze, the biggest part of our problem is salaries and benefits," she said. "I plan to address that next year. But I am going to argue that we keep recreation."

The council ultimately voted to delay the item until its next council meeting, on June 23, to give staff time to collect donations to keep the school pools open. The pools aren't set to open until the following week, and Recreation Superintendent Juliene Flanders said staffing wouldn't be affected.

"We'll still hire the same number of people, but they won't have as many hours," she said.

In other action, the council voted 4-0 — Councilman Kurt Spycher was out of town — to raise fees for other recreation programs to bring them more closely in line with their costs.

Anyone interested in donating to keep the pools open can call Flanders at 668-5594.