Three of the six Macon-Bibb County public swimming pools will open for the summer Saturday morning, and two more will open Tuesday.
But the pool at Freedom Park will remain closed for the third summer in a row.
Recreation Director Dale Doc Dougherty said getting the pools ready makes him excited about summer, triggering youthful nostalgia.
When I see the kids playing, it takes me back to my own childhood, he said.
This year, pools will be open on an alternating schedule: Booker T. Washington and Memorial Park will be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Meanwhile, East Macon, Frank Johnson and Bloomfield pools will be open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Pools will be closed Sundays, when the recreation centers also are closed, Dougherty said.
The daily admission price to the pools is $1.
The five opening pools didnt require any extensive repairs to open this time, aside from a new pump at the Booker T. Washington pool. But every year theres some cleanup work to be done, and the pools must be inspected, Dougherty said.
The Freedom Park pool, however, cant be fixed so easily, he said.
That pool would have to be built from scratch, Dougherty said. It has old metal sides, and the concrete has shifted.
When workers filled it with water three years ago, half of it leaked out overnight through cracks in the bottom. Since then theres been no serious talk of replacing it, which would likely cost $500,000 to more than $1 million, he said.
The city of Macon operated pools and associated recreation centers for years, but under a service delivery deal signed in 2012, control of the pools passed to Bibb County in July of that year. The recreation staff, including Dougherty, also became county employees at the time.
In 2013, the pools didnt open on Memorial Day weekend as they had in the past. Some City Council members denounced the delay as indication that the county didnt care about urban residents, but Dougherty and other county officials countered that it took extra work and expense to get long-neglected pools in shape for the public.
Last year just three pools were open, and the East Macon, Frank Johnson and Bloomfield pools got resurfacing and pump replacement with $278,000 from special purpose local option sales tax money, said Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore. Theres $3.6 million in the SPLOST for Freedom Park as a whole, but not specifically for the pool, he said. Plans there call for athletic field upgrades, parking improvements and replacing the sidewalk around the lake.
Having just three pools open last year greatly reduced the amount by which the government had to subsidize pool operations, Dougherty said. In years when they were all open six days a week and were managed by a contractor, operating the pools cost $220,000 annually, he said. Admission fees only brought in about $20,000, so tax revenue had to cover the rest, Dougherty said. Last year the pools cost $80,000 to run, with about $10,000 covered from admission fees, he said. Part of that decline in revenue was probably tied to the large number of rainy days last summer, Dougherty said.
By having five pools open on alternating days, Recreation staff hope to keep costs down to around last years level, using 12 to 14 lifeguards and moving them among pools as needed, he said.
Labors always your biggest cost in anything, Dougherty said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.