A ‘grand’ idea? New rate structure for outdoor pool debated

By on May 8, 2013

By:

GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent

, Staff Writer

A "grand" idea made its way to the floor of the Ephrata Borough work session Monday night which could pave the way to a new pricing structure at the Ephrata Community Pool, aimed at aiding the extended family.

It’s hard to believe by this time next month the outdoor pool will already have been open for almost two weeks. And at Monday’s meeting, with visions of warmer days spent by the clear blue water stirring, the topic of the pool and a new approach to a particular rate category soon become a discussion topic.

The Ephrata Recreation Center oversees the yearly operation of the outdoor pool. The Rec’s executive director Jim Summers was on hand for Monday night’s meeting to flesh out the details on possible grand family pricing.

"Right now we have a very clean, structured rate system in place," explained Summers. "If we were to introduce grand-family rates, this would become a bit challenged."

At a glance, offering a special fee structure for grandparents who might wish to bring their grandchildren along to the pool with them seems like a good idea considering the cost of buying individual day passes. But the possibility is not without considerable challenges, including what constitutes a family, how many grandchildren should be included with such a rate fee and how to account for residency of both the grandparents and the grandchildren.

Summers pointed out that it could get tricky to set up a fee structure for resident grandparents with resident grandchildren and resident grandparents with non-resident grandchildren. It would also get tricky for grandparents with a large number of grandchildren who would not all regularly come to the pool.

One proposal for a rate structure would offer grandparents the same season ticket rates currently offered to families: $181 for resident families and $222 for non-resident families. Currently the pool offers a 20 percent senior discount which, if applied, could mean $145 resident and $178 non-resident rates.

In considering such a grand-family plan, Summers said that he surveyed other local pools to see if they had any such programs in place.

"I did survey other local pools such as Adamstown, Denver, Lititz, Woodridge, New Holland and Manheim and did not find any grand-family rates," added Summers.

"If we were to add grand-family rates, it would become much more muddled on determining grandparentship as well as answering questions of residency," stated Summers. "This just would not be as clean as it is right now. Plus, how would we handle grandparents that are primary care providers? Are the grandchildren in for the weekend or here all the time?"

Summers added that in some cases grandparents might get a season pass to include children who might otherwise be included in another season pass. He explained that it would be difficult to determine the impact such a program would have on revenue, stating that it might increase the number of season tickets sold as grand-family plans but could reduce the number or regular family or individual season tickets sold.

Early season tickets went on sale April 1 and will be sold until May 17. For his analysis, Summers said he used non-discounted prices. He added that if council were to adopt such a program it could be offered as early as May 25.

"Have we had any specific inquiry for such a program?" asked council president Dale Hertzog. Summers said there had not been but that he had done his study at the request of borough manager Bob Thompson.

"George [DiIlio] and I also have to take some credit for the idea," added community services chair Tom Reinhold. "At last year’s open house, we had someone asking about such rates. It is difficult. I’m actually torn both ways. It would be nice to do it but maybe we are first to try to do it because it is that messy."

Mayor Ralph Mowen asked Summers for his opinion of such a program.

"I think we should keep things as they are," stated Summers. "It is clean and simple. We have been very open to what we were declaring a family to be. We cleaned that up last summer and held to it and it worked."

Currently the Ephrata Community Pool considers a family "parents or legal guardians and their children ages 18 years and under or their full-time students up to ages 21 residing at the same address.

The other possibility floated Monday night included the possibility of selling five or seven day passes which could be used throughout the season and punched for each use.

"My recommendation would be for the committee to explore this in-depth and if they really like it consider it for next season," suggested Hertzog. "I agree it’s a little rushed for something to do now. I’m not even sure this is the way to go. Maybe you could offer a 10 visit membership for a discounted rate."

Summers agreed that some pools do offer such passes.

Councilman DiIlio thought it was a good idea and did not want to see the borough miss out on an opportunity to lead the way for other community pools.

"We should not pass up the opportunity to be the first," said DiIlio. "Don’t hurt yourself worrying about what is a family. We can over-think some of these things. I’d like us to take the opportunity to be pioneers with the grand-family pool rates."

Councilman Bob Good agreed.

"I would agree if this can be done without rocking the boat," noted Good.

Reinhold agreed to take the matter back before committee which will meet May 20.

"Perhaps we can look at a 10 or 20 visit rates or perhaps a way to get a grand-family plan that is still simple and makes sense," stated Reinhold, who also asked Summers to attend the May 20 committee meeting.

For more information on Ephrata Borough, visit the website at ephrataboro.org or the Ephrata Community Pool website at ephratarec.com/communitypool.com.

Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

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