SEASIDE — While some of those who heard a proposal to raise fees for swimming and working out at the Sunset pool remained critical following a recent information meeting, others said they were happy the proposed system would let them do more.

Their comments came following a lengthy presentation by Justin Cutler, general manager of the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District at a meeting April 11.

“I can take any class that I want as many times a week that I want. Whether I pay a daily fee, or a monthly fee or use a punch card, I can take all the classes I want. I’m thrilled,” said Susan Deshon, of Seaside.

But Sandy Klinke, who lives in Cannon Beach and would pay higher out-of-district fees for monthly passes, said she couldn’t afford $59 a month for a monthly pass.

“I’m on Social Security,” she told Cutler. “You’ve got to figure out something for seniors because that is what will keep you going.”

Swim passes for Cannon Beach residents and others living outside the district’s boundaries currently are $15 and swim-and-gym passes are $37.50. The new fee for both passes would be $59.

Marti Wajc, another regular patron of the pool, said she “vehemently opposed” the fees. Wajc, who is a candidate for the district board in the May election, read a letter to Cutler saying that it was “very disconcerting that the district was left in such a bad mess.” She criticized the district’s participation in the operation of Broadway Field, which has produced little, if any, income from players’ fees and asked how the district’s property taxes were being spent.

“The district’s spending needs to be better scrutinized by the board and the taxpayers,” Wajc said.

After disrupting the meeting many times and being asked by several members in the audience be silent and let Cutler speak, Wajc left the meeting angry.

The proposed increases would raise fees for all swim and swim-plus-fitness passes, and it would reintroduce a 10-punch pass. The fees, in some cases, would double or even more than triple.

A general admission ticket, for instance would increase from the current $2 to $5. A monthly swim pass would go from $10 to $35 for in-district residents and from $15 to $59 for those outside the district boundaries.

The proposed higher fees would help make up for losses the district has already incurred as well as anticipated expenses, Cutler said.

He pointed out that the $1.2 million the district receives in property taxes pays for only 56 percent of the district’s costs. Taxes subsidize 91 percent of the pool costs, while fees cover only 9 percent, Cutler said.

The district needs about $200,000 in its contingency fund to take care of deferred maintenance and to prepare for emergencies that could occur with an aging pool, approaching its 40th year. The district has only $4,000 in the fund now, he said.

In addition, he said, the district will have to pay an additional $50,000 to cover employees’ health insurance costs required by the federal Affordable Care Act.

However, the fee increases are expected to bring in $40,000 to $70,000 in additional revenue, not enough to cover the $200,000 needed for contingencies.

To save money, Cutler said the district is readjusting its salary policies so employees, some of whom are earning income above the average for their position, will be limited to a specific range. A position was eliminated at the Bob Chisholm Community Center, and the community center’s operations are undergoing some “retooling.”

The district’s marketing campaign also is being reorganized, and mailings are being reduced to go to patrons inside the district boundaries only, Cutler said.

In addition, the district is eliminating its capital replacement fund, he said.

An upgrade in the district’s heating and air conditioning system has reduced energy expenses by $22,000, but Cutler expects those costs will gradually rise with the higher cost of natural gas.

The fee structure hasn’t been addressed since fiscal year 2009-2010, Cutler said, and in 2010 some fees were lowered. The popular 10-punch pass also was eliminated, and, unless swim and fitness classes met a certain minimum of registered students, they were discontinued.

Class registrations went from a high of 8,394 registrations in 2009 to 5,188 this year.

Part of the reason for the lower turnout, Cutler said, is that those who buy passes for swimming or for swimming and fitness must also pay another fee for classes, such as circuit training, Zumba or yoga. The costs are prohibitive for many of those who are interested in taking classes but can’t afford the double fees.

The new fee schedule would allow patrons who buy daily, monthly or annual passes to participate in any swim or fitness class without paying an extra fee, Cutler said. Classes also would not be closed for failing to meet a minimum number of students.

But several in the audience said they weren’t interested in taking classes and didn’t want to pay the higher fees for passes.

“If you’re going to raise the prices, you’re going to have to give people something,” said Jeannie Breall, of Seaside. “Now we’re paying extra for something people don’t want.”

Others suggested that Cutler consider a lesser rate for senior citizens and that the district become a partner with the “Senior Sneakers” program offered by a health insurance company. The district would be reimbursed for seniors enrolled in the program.

Cutler said the district has tried to contact the “Senior Sneakers” program several times but has received no response.

Although Cutler’s proposal met resistance at first, by the end of the meeting when they heard more about it, critics, including Breall and Klinke, were reconsidering their opposition.

“It’s going to hit me hard,” Klinke said. “But by paying $59, I could come seven days a week, and I like going every day. Paying for when I’m not here was a problem. But if I know I’m going to be gone, I can buy the 10-punch pass. I could do either the monthly pass or the punch card.”

Breall, however, was still on the fence. “I could see a raise from $2.50 to $3 for (daily) swimming, but $4 is too much,” she said.

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