Future of Ann Arbor's Mack Pool topic of Thursday meeting
The future of Ann Arbor's Mack Pool will be the topic of discussion Thursday as supporters of the city-owned pool meet to evaluate options for saving it from closing.
The public is encouraged to attend a meeting hosted by the Mack Pool Task Force, a group of Ann Arbor citizens and community leaders looking for ways to cut costs and increase revenues at the indoor pool.
"We still think the community should have a year-round pool," said Ed Sketch, coordinator of the task force and a member of Friends of Mack Pool. "Our goal to try to get the pool to be self-sustaining. It's not an easy problem, but that's our approach."
Mack Pool operations currently require a nearly $100,000 annual subsidy from the city's general fund, which has city officials considering closing it.
Thursday's meeting is set from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the media center at Ann Arbor Open School at Mack, 715 Brooks St., near Seventh and Miller.
Ann Arbor swimmers, neighborhood residents, and other members of the public are encouraged to attend and participate in evaluating options for keeping the pool open. The task force is working to find sustainable ways to retain the pool as a city-owned fitness resource after the current budget year ends in June 2010.
Organizers said Thursday's meeting will bring attendees up to date with a city staff presentation summarizing the pool's current situation and the timeline for making a decision. The group then will split up to share ideas and brainstorm on topics suggested by the task force.
Before the meeting ends, participants will reconvene to report and share ideas to the whole group.
Sketch, a retired Ford Motor Co. employee who swims at Mack Pool four times a week, said the task force has had positive discussions with city leaders. He said the group has put together a working business plan that needs some tweaking.
"We've got a lot of great ideas but we haven't yet found a way to integrate them," Sketch said, suggesting the group also needs to calculate exact figures for how much an hour it currently costs to run the pool.
Sketch said USA Swimming of Colorado Springs has provided the group with a lot of technical advice.
One of the cost-reduction strategies the group has identified so far is getting a thermal blanket to cover the pool when it's not in use to help reduce temperature loss and evaporation of chemicals.
On the revenue enhancing side, Sketch said one of the ideas discussed includes getting the school system, which has more hours blocked off than it uses, to free up more hours for programs that bring in new users and revenue.
"We've got a boatload of ideas, and it's just a question of knowing what hours would be available," Sketch said.
"Our model has always been to try to get us to cover costs," he added. "At the end of the day, it may take a year or two to fully break even, but we're not looking for the taxpayer to bail the pool out if we can avoid that."
The Mack Pool Task Force is chaired by City Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward. The group's findings are expected to be presented to the City Council in February for possible inclusion in the fiscal year 2010-11 budget.
Hohnke said he's looking forward to hearing the community's input at Thursday's meeting and then again on Dec. 10.
"The gap we're trying to bridge is significant, but I'm optimistic we'll get there," Hohnke said. "We've got a talented and energetic group of citizens coming together to help create a solution for the community. And the AAPS has been a valuable partner in this process."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.