Administrator: Important to keep pool open for Keyser

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
[FILE PHOTO]

KEYSER - With the costs of operating the John R. Shelton Swimming Pool always a large drain on the city’s budget, Keyser City officials are taking a hard look at how they can minimize those costs and still keep the pool open for the community.

On March 24, newly-appointed parks and recreation commissioner Ron Metcalf announced that the pool would open on June 5 this year, and remain open through Aug. 30 - making this summer the longest the pool has been open for several years.

Citing the escalating costs of operating the pool, the previous administration had cut back on the number of days the pool was open in an attempt to cut costs, and of course last year the pool remained closed due to COVID-19 regulations.

In talking with the News Tribune about the city’s proposed FY22 budget, city administrator Jeff Broadwater said this week the officials are working to minimize the loss of water at the pool, therefore minimizing the cost of operation.

“The two primary costs in operating the pool are lifeguards and water usage/loss,” he said, explaining that “the cost of lifeguards is typically offset by pool admissions and rentals.

“The cost of the water (which we basically pay ourselves) has been the subject of much debate over the years. The rate charged and actual amount of water lost is being reviewed. We are planning to reimburse the water department for actual cost of water production and are actively looking at methods to minimize water loss,” he said.

Broadwater said the city is actively seeking grants to not only help with the operation of the pool, but to also boost the Parks and Recreation Department as a whole.

He emphasized the importance of keeping the pool open and the parks and playgrounds in good shape for the community.

“The citizens of Keyser, especially our youth, have very limited options for entertainment and recreation, especially during the summer months. In the midst of a COVID pandemic, where our youths have been locked down for the better part of a year, in a state where suicide, drug usage and obesity are all major concerns, the pool has the potential to offer social interaction, stress relief and exercise which could all benefit our community,” he said. 

In addition, the pool will offer 10-12 teenagers ages 15 and up an opportunity for summer employment.

The proposed FY22 budget allots $29, 015 for the operation of the pool, $21,645 for the playgrounds, and $20,000 for parks and recreation.

It also includes an estimated revenue of $17,000 in the parks and recreation line item, which Broadewater explains comes mostly from pool admissions, rentals and donations.

Broadwater says the pool is just one of many challenges the city faces in its budget.

“The City of Keyser and our community face many challenges. Our annual budget is only a fraction of those of cities similar in size throughout West Virginia,” he said.

“We obviously need to look at ways of increasing revenues in the future to expand upon city services. The city hopes to retain existing and encourage new residents and businesses to locate in the City of Keyser by placing an emphasis on public safety, quality streets and the expansion of parks and recreation.”