Parks board to suggest YMCA manage pools

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By The Staff

    SHEPHERDSVILLE - At the end of May, the three public swimming pools in Bullitt County are slated to open. And in its first meeting in over 13 years, the parks board made its first major decision.

    The three current board members voted unanimously to recommend on Tuesday that Bullitt Fiscal Court enter into a management agreement of the pools with the Bullitt County YMCA.

    The agreement would only be for the 2010 swimming season.

    The issue of the long-term management and direction of the county’s parks and recreation department is something board members said would take much longer to determine.

    The board met for over two hours on Monday to hammer out its most pressing issue - who would be responsible for operating the pools.

    June Daugherty, executive director of the local YMCA, said a proposal was sent to county officials several months ago concerning a partnership with the county over management of the entire department.

    “We need to resolve the pool issue,” said Steve Larimore, interim chair of the parks board and a former parks and recreation director. “This is time sensitive.”

    Larimore said that no matter who operates the pools, now is the time to begin seeking lifeguards and other pool workers for the summer.

    Daugherty said the YMCA got involved last summer when the county pools either opened late or not at all due to delays in meeting new federal safety standards. As a result, the YMCA youngsters had to be transported to Fort Knox to swim.

    This year, the YMCA made the proposal to partner with the county to take over management of the entire parks program. While that plan would allow the YMCA to basically break even, handling only the pools for three months would not be possible without some financial assistance.

    In looking at the numbers, Daugherty said it appears each of the pools would lose about $20,000 each summer. She said that is a loss her board would not accept.

    Overall, Daugherty said the general fund had to supplement the parks department about $250,000 during the past fiscal year.

    Assistant parks director Ed Etherton said that while the budget has five full-time employees in the department, that counts the director, Kendall Grant, who has been out for illnesses, a vacant administrative assistant’s positive and two maintenance men who work for other county departments much of the year.

    Etherton said as assistant director he knows the least about the negotiations between the county and the YMCA and he couldn’t get the approval to actually run the department in his boss’ absence.

    Larimore said he understood Bullitt Fiscal Court would be expected to make a financial contribution toward the three-month management agreement. However, the board, which includes Bernie Brown and Steve Thompson, as well as appointees Kevin Ezell and Terry Price, who must first be approved by other bodies, did not make any recommendation on what the figure should be in its motion.

     Thompson, the school board’s representative, said he didn’t see any other option but to allow the YMCA to manage the pools this summer.

    Brown, who served on the board when it stopped its meetings, said there must be something done as the pools must be opened on time.

    The county opened the Maryville and Mount Washington pools last summer. Repairs are currently underway to ensure the Bullitt Central pool will open this summer. There are no plans to open the Lebanon Junction pool.

    Sabrina Gish, president of the Bullitt County Dolphins swim team, said her concern was whether parents would be required to pay additional fees to swim this summer.

    The Dolphins will continue to use the Maryville pool this summer for its practices and meets.

    With the pool issue resolved from the board’s standpoint, Larimore said there was no way a decision could be made without research on the bigger proposal presented by the YMCA.

    At the same time, Larimore said it wouldn’t be fair to Daugherty to keep such a decision in limbo for a long period of time. He felt that some decision would be needed prior to taking registrations for the winter basketball season.

    Depp Rasner presented board members with his vision of the parks program.

    For years, he said nothing has changed in the operation of the department. With over 12,000 children in the school system and an aging population that is growing, Rasner said it would be a perfect time to look at the big picture.

    He envisioned many different agencies, with government being taken out of the equation, working together to offer programs for the community.

    Swannie Jett, director of the Bullitt County Public Health Department, said that a healthy community encompasses a lot of various partners.

    And, with the emphasis of the First Lady, Jett said federal dollars are available. He said Louisville received nearly $8 million for its wellness program to deal with obesity.

    Daugherty said the YMCA is built on partnerships and she felt something could be done in Bullitt County. Any agreement approved by fiscal court would also need approval of the YMCA board, said Daugherty.

    Bullitt Fiscal Court meets on Tuesday, April 20, at 9:30 a.m. in the courthouse. The public is invited to attend.

    The Bullitt County Parks Board will meet on the third Thursday of each month at 4 p.m. at the school board’s central office. The public is invited to attend.