BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A shortened Fort Madison City Council literally gave thumbs up to proceed with discussions to have the local YMCA take over management of the municipal pool.
Three council members were absent, just barely leaving a quorum at Tuesday’s meeting, with councilman Kevin Rink, Travis Seidel, and Chad Cangas all absent from the meeting, but City Manager David Varley was told to move ahead with negotiating an agreement with the YMCA. A contract with the YMCA would still have to be brought in front of the council.
Varley has been working with YMCA Executive Director Ryan Wilson and several members of the board to enter into a management agreement to turn over operations to the YMCA.
The City would still own the property and Varley said the city would still be responsible for large capital expenditures, but overall management, supplies, staffing, etc. would be the responsibility of the YMCA.
City Councilman Brian Wright said for the last couple years the band department had been running concessions and is how they were raising funds and asked if they would still be able to do that.
Varley said the concessions could help them (the YMCA) make money at it, which would reduce the deficit in running the pool which helps everyone, but he said that would be the YMCA’s decision as part of their management function.
Varley said the agreement would be a one-year deal at the outset.
“Do you think we have too few or too many lifeguards and will they be dropping that,” Wright said.
Varley said he didn’t know what the YMCA would do for staffing, but he said they have the same problem finding lifeguards that the city had.
City Councilman Mark Lair asked Varley if there was any talk about longer hours or different hours.
“I know a lot of times the city closes at, like, 5 o’clock,” Lair said.
Varley said hours have been part of the discussions.
“To them it makes sense to extend it to allow those people who get off work and it’s 98 degrees and want to go to the pool,” he said. “They are going to look at that. They think there is a market there and a demand there for parents and kids after 5 p.m.
Mayor Brad Randolph said his concerns were that people would still have access to rent the pool and the fees would stay the same.
“And then the pool season, we extended that into the fall because it was still hot enough for people who want to enjoy the pool,” Randolph said. “My concern is that the public have the same access with someone else running it as they did with us.”
Varley said that will all be addressed in the language of the contract. He said there will be incentives in the agreement to encourage the YMCA to close the gap on the loss to more of a breakeven or profit position so the city eventually won’t be subsidizing any losses.
“Over time, we hope this saves us money. They will be able to take advantage of economies of scale and they should be able to reduce or eliminate that gap, but more importantly it allows us to use our resources on our parks.”
With the nod, Varley said he will work to bring an agreement to the council in two weeks so the YMCA can get rolling on their end to be ready for the pool to be open.
In other action, the council;
• voted 4-0 to vacate 15th place and 16th, 17th and 19th streets south of Avenue P and sell the property to Hall Towing, Inc. for $33,889.93.
• voted 4-0 to sell property at 3034 Avenue K to Habitat for Humanity for $1.
• voted 4-0 to install up to three street lights in the Green Oaks Development Subdivision.
• voted 4-0 to sign four documents related to upcoming construction on the Cattermole Library and the Old Lee County Bank building housing grant. The docs are all federal paperwork to shore up the city’s role as the responsible party in the agreements between the contractor, the state and Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission.
• heard from Dave Taylor, the new owner/operator of 10th Street Station, who introduced himself and said he was excited to be a part of the community and help with historic preservation and Main Street efforts.