Waterlogged: Criticized pool pass pricing sunk

news-poolprice-crop-medSwimmers at Crow Pool enjoy a water aerobics class.
PHOTO BY GORDON BLOCK

Splashing in the deep end of bad publicity, the city of Charlottesville has formally ended a pricing plan on summer pool passes that charged more to students going to private schools.

Following the pricing change, the City's acting parks director, Brian Daly, defended the original policy and denies that public scrutiny led to the change.

"The whole point of having this rate was to be as inclusive as possible," Daly says. Daly explains the city's primary concern was ensuring that the poorest students in Charlottesville would be able to afford summer swim passes. Though he admits being aware of some controversy around the pricing, he says he never personally heard any complaints, and didn't clarify when asked what prompted his department to "broaden" its policy.

The City's website now defines a Charlottesville City Student as "any student (excluding college students) that has residency within the city of Charlottesville."

The original pricing would have had public school students in grades K-12 paying $20 for a summer pass, with private school students over 48 inches (a height some children reach in kindergarten) paying a pre-season price of $39, the same rate as adults and nearly double the fee for their public school counterparts.

The pricing disparity created an uproar, with former Republican city councilor and current radio talk show host Rob Schilling raging about the policy on his blog and claiming that the pricing structure was the city's way to "punish" families who send their children to private schools.

Daly insists that Schilling's reaction was uncommon.

“Most people are very excited,” says Daly, who estimates that more than 800 passes have been sold for the summer. The total capacity for both outdoor pools is 525 swimmers (300 at Washington Park; 225 at the new Onesty pool at Meade Park). And Daly maintains that even the original pricing gave every city resident a "significant discount,” compared to the $79 charged to non-resident swimmers over 48 inches.

“We were trying to provide a rate for those whose income might be a barrier,” Daly says. “We want kids in the pool.”

Schilling says he's happy to see the change in policy.

“They did what was right. They were doing what was wrong, and they changed it,” he says. “Once it was brought to light," he adds, seeming to take credit for the change in policy, "they had no choice but to react.”

But just correcting the pricing structure doesn't go quite far enough in his Schilling's opinion. “Whoever came up with that idea in the first place," he says, "should be fired."

The city has extended its preseason sale prices until June 20, around the expected opening of Onesty pool. The passes can be purchased at the Washington Park pool, Crow pool, or in the City Hall Annex.

Read more on: parkspoolsrob schilling

20 comments

Perhaps the city should reimburse the parents of private schools for all of the money they DON"T have to spend on those kids. Then thge double charge would be fair.

CVille Eye, in reference to the city retirement system, each year an employee hangs in there, his/her monthly retirement check is enhanced. If a retirement check might be $15,000 a month in 2009, it could very well be $15,750 in 2010. Or $16,500 in 2011. Or $18,000 in 2012. If still in good health, long timers have no real incentive to step aside or retire just for the sake of doing so. The longer they work, the larger their retirement check is.

If O'Connell himself is on city retirement (??), don't count on his going anywhere in the near future. Enhanced retirement checks, health insurance, life insurance, other benefits, take home vehicle to use anytime he likes.... nope, don't count on his going anywhere anytime soon. :)

Inspite of all of that, O'Connell may leave before he's asked to leave. I am well aware that the City offers the best retirement package for city employees of any locality in the State and even the State itself.

I wouldn't go so far as to say the city offers it.

The city taxpayers unknowingly offer it to the employees.

98% of the city taxpayers have no clue how their money is spent. The other 2% that do have a clue can't seem to do a darn thing about it.

Small neighborhood Park? It is just as big as Washington Park. Many folks in the neighborhood are looking forward to taking there kids swimming. It is funny how there is more tolerance for fruits and Vegetables than for our children.

Don't bother readig Gene's recommended link. Boy am I glad McCord didn't get on the School Board. BTW, I hope the grandiose Parks and Recreation "Adviceless" Board doesn't often meet without legal public notification to discuss issues relating to our parks or recreation.

When did Meade Park become as big as Washington Park?

Classic bat-and-switch with Meade Park and the neighborhood. Parks and Rec showed some real pretty pictures of stream restoration happening as the centerpiece of a new park design. One of the reasons that the project was proposed in the first place was after all supposedly to keep chlorine out of the creek.

What we got instead of a new swimming pool is a cheap looking plastic playground that looks like the ones found at McDonalds. Now, I'm just waiting for the day when I hear that the place where the wetlands were in the first set of plans is going to be paved to take parking pressure off of the neighborhood streets.

Webster 52, you seem to have genuine difficulty discerning mass and scale. Perhaps you haven't ever laid eyes on Washington Park. If you had, you'd have noticed that Washington Park, which is regional, is 9.25 acres and is one contiguous parcel. In addition to a large pool facility, it contains a regulation softball field, basketball courts, a large multi-purpose playing field, a playground, and a large picnic shelter. Meade Park is 5.2 acres, split into two offset parcels accessed by a bridge.

Greenleaf Park, which is considered a neighborhood park, is a whopping 14 acres. Much larger than Meade, and could have easily held a large aquatic facility. Forest Hills and Tonsler are both larger than Meade, and might have also supported such a facility with room to retain more green space.

Of course parents in the neighborhood are eager to have a place nearby so that their children can swim. In case you didn't realize it though, they've had that since the 1970s. But everyone, and that includes the people at Parks & Rec, agrees that Meade Park is far too small for such a large pool with that large a capacity. It dominates the tiny front parcel, it's an unbuffered ungainly eyesore, and there isn't adequate parking to support it without it becoming burdensome to surrounding residents.

Promises were made to the residents as to the design and colors used and those promises were not kept. The promised berms never materialized. P&R promised to keep the neighborhood in the loop every step of the way, and they haven't. And the list goes on... The process broke down along the way and the city needs to conduct its business in an honorable manner. Just because you and your child are happy with the new pool, doesn't negate that fact.

Not sure how you've managed to turn the issue of a 7 day-a-week pool to an issue involving fruits and vegetables (4 hours every Wednesday?).

"Charlottesville City relents on defensless discrimination against private school families
May 21st, 2009 Schilling Show Leave a comment Go to comments
After the story broke here on The Schilling Show blog last week, and later was picked up by The Hook and NBC 29, Charlottesville City has relented on its discriminatory two-tiered pricing policy for pool passes.

The City’s policy, as originally confirmed by Ric Barrick, previously prohibited private school families from receiving the discounted ââ?¬Å?sale” rate. Charlottesville’s web site has changed and now states that the price is available to all students:

Charlottesville City Student - valid for any student (excluding college students) that has residency within the City of Charlottesville

So, private school kids, splash away. The elitist policies of Charlottesville City Hall have been drowned out by the cries of reason, at least until the next time they think nobody’s watching.

See Rob Schilling’s NBC 29 interview on City-sponsored discrimination:"
This is Rob Schilling's exact words posted from his blog. Does anyone see anything written about any advisory committee? Maybe I'm blind or somebody else is either dumb or has some agenda against Rob Schilling. Yes, he has posted the video from Ric Barrick's interview with the media, but Schilling was not in attendance at the press conference. When I see a perfectly intelligent and educated person persist in misrepresenting facts, I cast aspersions in the hope that he will not contributing crap delivered with "forked tongue."

You know, generally the GOP is just a bunch of ranting hypocritical nonsense, so I ignore them.

But this policy frankly shocks me: Parents of private school kids pay taxes, and those taxes build the public pools, so their kids should be charged the same rate. Frankly, as it is, 20 bucks is a give away. Even at 35 a head for the entire summer, everyone is getting their tax money's worth.

Cville Eye, this scares me. You and I are agreeing way too much lately.

Oh good, another City employee you can't believe.

Here is a discussion of the pool pass situaiton (scroll down half way) from a member of the Parks Advisory Board. An obvious and puzzling omission from this article....

http://citizenmccord.com/

Is this the Advisory Board that okayed jamming a bloated regional facility into a small neighborhood park against the neighborhood's wishes, and without addressing the very obvious impacts? And while they're proudly patting themselves on the back, have they included the impacted neighbors in any of their tours of the facility, or did they attend any of their meetings? Well then...

Pool Neighbor,
If you are including the athletic fields of Washington Park that are separated by woods and terrain, then yes Washington Park is bigger. I would say that the residential homes are actually closer to the pool at Washington Park then they are at Meade. There are others in the Neighborhood that have a different opinion than you. I didn't realize that a children's play area with bright colors to be an eyesore to some.

The city messed up BIG TIME!

Does anyone see a pattern here. Our city manager gets awards for this and that from far away places. In the meantime these mis-steps keep happening. They make the Council look incompetent as well as the staff. If I were them I would be very upset about so many errors in judgment.

@TJ, hopefully the City Manager will not be with us much longer. I wonder if he's being paid for his work with Virginia First Cities.

The best community discussion of this issue can be found on CVille News: http://www.cvillenews.com/2009/05/20/pool-tiered-pricing/

Personal aspersions aside, I would like to state for the record, once again, that the Parks and Recreation Citizen Advisory Board, of which I am a member, did NOT recommend a separate pricing structure for private school students. Quite the opposite; our goal has always been to make the season passes as affordable and accessible to as many people as we reasonably could. Initially, we had discussed extending the discount to students who get free or reduced lunches. After learning that this information is (correctly) protected under privacy laws, we recommended that the discount be extended to all minor students who are Charlottesville residents. All this talk about a "policy change" overlooks the fact the Board NEVER recommended a separate price for private school students. The implication that we did otherwise has come mainly from the media, and Rob Schilling in particular.

I am not going to use this space to fully address the "controversy" over the new Onesty Pool at Meade Park. Some people don't like it. Most people do. I am looking forward to attending the grand opening tomorrow, and as a parent of school-age children, I wish that a park and aquatic facility as nice as this one were within walking distance of my house.

Finally, the Parks and Recreation Citizen Advisory Board does not meet without public notification. Our meeting time and places are posted on the City website. For the record, we meet every third Wednesday, usually in Tonsler Park. You can also reach the entire Board via our group email address at parksandrecreationadvisoryboard@charlottesville.org.