Big splash?

After Newton invested $127,850 in its municipal pool, the facility garnered $7,331 in revenue during summer 2011.

"I don't think it is as much about the money as it is about providing a service for the citizens of Newton," said Newton Mayor Pro Tem Anne Stedman.

During three months of operation for summer 2011 — 55 days total — the pool welcomed an average of 32 swimmers from the general public, according to information provided by Newton Recreation Director Sandra Waters. For the summer, total attendance for public swimming was 1,798, and the pool was open Monday-Saturday for public swimming. High attendance at the pool was 77, while the low attendance was four swimmers, according to information from Waters.

"The swimming pool is not in the money-making business," said Council member Mary Bess Lawing. "That is not the purpose of the swimming pool. To me it is a quality of life issue. It is providing recreation to the people in Newton. It is just like a park."

The pool was also host to 11 day camps that brought a cumulative total of 602 swimmers throughout the summer. One of those camps visited the pool only once in June. Those day camp numbers could have been greater, Newton leaders argued.

"This year (the recreation department) was strapped in that they did not know until late into the spring that (the pool) would be open," said Newton Mayor Robert Mullinax. "By that time a lot of day cares and a lot of large groups made plans with other pools."

Newton City Council decided in early May to open the pool for summer 2011 after it was closed last year. With the decision came approval to invest $42,600 required to open the facility in June. Funds spent during June alone included $12,600 for wages, FICA, Medicare, uniforms and whistles for six part-time lifeguards, who earned $9.54 per hour.

Before it opened, the city also spent about $16,500 to bring the pool into compliance with county health department requirements. Improvements included grates placed over pool gutters, construction of a wall near the concession area and replacement of eight mirrors.

Newton's approved budget for FY 2011-12 included $85,250 to operate the pool during July and August in 2011 and June 2012. Among those funds is $17,400 for the purchase of a wheelchair lift to make the pool compliant with standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"A pool is very expensive, and we debated long and hard about it," said Stedman, who, in May, opposed reopening the pool. "When we considered whether we should open it or not, a lot of people spoke up for it, and that is why we kept it."

With Newton's investments in the pool, the city earned a total of $7,330.70 in revenue during summer 2011. Of that, $5,204.50 came from public swimming and daycares, while $2,126.20 came from concession sales.

"I am not sure that a $7,300 return — if you look at it as a snapshot — appears to be a good investment," Mullinax said, "but you have to look at it over a longer period of time. Some of those expenditures are of a permanent nature."

Mullinax added that the city spends money in its passive parks and those facilities don't provide a significant return on investment.

"None of these things seem to be a good investment," he said, "but recreational opportunities are not always about paying for themselves."

Sinking investment?
Money invested in pool: $128K
Investment per Newton citizen (Census 2010: 12,968): $9.87
Average daily attendance for summer 2011: 32.