Akron’s Hillcrest will remain open in 2019

By on January 16, 2019

Swim club approaches council about its future

Hillcrest Swim Club officials say the gates will open for the 2019 swimming season.

That’s news because the 88-member club, an Akron institution since 1960, faced a boatload of financial challenges just to stay afloat in recent years. Hillcrest President Jerry Lile and treasurer Josh Dube appeared at Akron borough council’s regular Jan. 14 meeting to gauge council’s interest in taking over the pool. While council showed sincere interest in the club’s plight, it did not express interest in taking ownership of the pool property. Lile noted the club has no financial resources besides members’ dues, and declining membership over the years has not helped in paying off a $35,000 mortgage remaining on the property. The club’s 2018 expenses of about $40,000 outpaced income of $36,000. Lile said board members’ contributions made up the difference.

Dube, the treasurer, said a family of four pays $390 for the annual dues and required to make a one-time $175 purchase of a certificate of ownership. By comparison, Ephrata Community Pool last year charged $270 for a family membership with no buy-in requirement. Ephrata Rec Center owns and operates that facility with financial support from the borough.

“It’s difficult to compete with the Ephrata pool,” Dube admitted. Lile said revenue from private parties and guest fees help offset the deficit. Its biggest event of the year comes at the close of the Ephrata High School band camp, when about 150 swimmers show up.

Hillcrest charges the band for the use of the pool, but that kind of event is a dicey deal for pool regulars, Lile said.

“If we open the pool to the band or other public events, it shuts out our paying members,” he said.

Akron Pool Hillcrest Swim Club

Because of insurance concerns, non-members can only use the pool if they are accompanied by a member. That’s a further impediment to increasing income.

“Plus, if you open the pool to the public,” Dube said, “you don’t know if 50 people are going to show up or 500.” Over the years, hundreds of Akronites have purchased certificates of ownership &tstr; they used to be called bonds–in Hillcrest.

For many years, those certificates were viable documents of ownership. Recently, the board changed the bylaws to require certificate owners buy annual memberships. If one year goes by without the owner joining, the certificate becomes inactive. After a second year without a membership, the certificate becomes void.

There was some discussion about how Hillcrest could improve its situation, but no concrete plans emerged. Council did indicate a strong interest in continuing a dialogue with pool officials and members, with an eye to keeping the facility open beyond the end of the 2019 swimming season. After the Hillcrest discussion, Mayor John McBeth distributed a brochure from the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley which listed their programs for 2019. The borough makes an annual contribution to the HSCV. He also distributed a flyer from Retreat Behavioral Health to council members and others at the meeting.

The flyer promoted a community Q&A forum scheduled for January 24 at the Retreat facility at 333 S. Seventh St., site of the former Akron Restaurant. The forum will feature Retreat staff in discussions about dealing with drug addiction.

Akron Pool Hillcrest Swim Club

The mayor reported that the New Year’s Eve Shoe Drop was a success, with about 200 people gathering at the Broad Street Park to celebrate the beginning of 2019. He said the Shoe Drop committee could meet as early as this month to discuss the next event.

Chief of Police Tom Zell presented a brief recap of his department’s work in 2018, noting the department responded to 3,229 incidents – which is relatively unchanged from previous years.
Non-traffic criminal arrests numbered 241 in 2018, nearly double the 125 figure for 217 and a dramatic increase from the 89 arrests in 2015. Traffic citations at 242 were down from 310 last year, and 462 in 2015.

Zell said since the department has no detective on staff. Lengthy investigations of criminal activity and traffic accidents are the responsibility of the responding and/or arresting officer. This has had some impact on speed enforcement.

The chief reported on a number of changes taking place as Akron and other departments gradually disengage from the county communications and record keeping operations.
Borough manager Sue Davidson reported that individuals who vandalized Roland Park will be processed through the county’s Youth Aid panel. Those in the program must pay restitution of $800 to remove the charges from their permanent records.

Davidson also reported that there had been three recent water main breaks, all of which had been repaired within hours.
She also reported on the Saturday morning Coffee with LNP event during the Akron Volunteer Fire Company’s monthly all-you-can-eat breakfast. Staffers from the LNP media organization attended the breakfast to gather input from residents.

Davidson said LNP reporter Chad Umble, who was at the breakfast, is working on a community profile of Akron scheduled to appear in the Sunday, Feb. 24, LNP edition.
Council President John Williamson discussed proposed changes to the zoning ordinance which would address short-term rentals within the borough. He said the ordinance, if approved, would also change the maximum allowable size of signs for organizational headquarters which are located within the borough’s borders.

That change would apply, for the present, to the proposed Handi*Vangelism project at the former Westview Golf Course. Councilman Keith Landis, who noted the borough has approved most of Handi*Vangelism’s requests, indicated that signage might help with traffic safety issues on the stretch of Rothsville Road bordering the facility.

The borough planning commission has a vacancy caused by the resignation of long-time member Sam Baughman. Borough residents interested in filling the vacancy were urged to contact the borough office, or any member of borough council.

Dick Wanner is a staff reporterphotographer for the Ephrata Review. He can be reached at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com. 

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