Publication Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Burgess pools: Back on track?
Burgess pools: Back on track?
(February 08, 2006) ** Local swim organizer says he can run pools at "little or no cost" to city.
By Rory Brown
Almanac Staff Writer
Tim Sheeper, founder of a local sports program, says he can run Menlo Park's brand new Burgess pools at "little or no cost to the city." With budget cuts looming, the city is ready to listen.
Mr. Sheeper made a proposal to do so during the City Council's January 31 consideration of delaying the April opening of the Burgess facility and its three new pools because of budget constraints.
With unanimous support, the council gave staff direction to start negotiations with Mr. Sheeper that could result in turning over control of the city's aquatics program to Mr. Sheeper. His recreational group, Menlo Park-based Team Sheeper, would control the Burgess pool facility under the proposal he floated.
Mr. Sheeper, a resident of unincorporated Menlo Park, says his program's class fees would cover the costs of maintaining the facility. The city's aquatics program now runs a deficit of about $400,000, said Michael Taylor, the acting community services director.
Under Mr. Sheeper's proposal, the city would enter into a contract for all needs associated with the aquatics program -- including staff, maintenance and utility costs -- with Team Sheeper, which provides camps, instruction and training to swimmers and triathletes of all ages and skill levels.
About 350 people take part in the program's classes, Mr. Sheeper said.
The costs and availability of Team Sheeper classes at the Burgess facility are yet to be determined. More information will be presented to the council February 14, and in a "full-fledged proposal" February 28, Mr. Taylor said.
About $500,000 is budgeted for the aquatics program for the remaining fiscal year, said Mr. Taylor. He acknowledged that it's still unclear how much it will cost to operate the new Burgess facility, which is being renovated to include a 25-meter by 25-yard lap pool, a 25-yard by 17-yard instructional pool, and a shallow pool for kids.
The Burgess pool facility overhaul is funded by the $38 million Measure T bond measure passed by voters in 2001.
In a recent community-wide survey, residents targeted the city's aquatics program for cuts, and staff-generated options for cutting costs include closing one of the Burgess pools for nine months of the year, and closing the pool in the Belle Haven neighborhood entirely.
Mr. Taylor says negotiations are also under way with another group that is interested in running the Belle Haven pool.
"Everything's on the table at this point," Mr. Taylor said.
If his proposal is approved, Mr. Sheeper would be responsible for managing the Burgess and Belle Haven pools, but he could hire an outside group to manage the Belle Haven pool, Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Sheeper's proposal isn't a new strategy -- Redwood City now contracts with Team Sheeper for services under a similar model for nine months of the year. City-sponsored classes still take place during the summer.
"We cover all of Redwood City's costs," Mr. Sheeper said. "In return we have a pool to swim in, and the space we need for our athletes."
Because it's twice as big as the Redwood City facility, "Burgess will be much more expensive to run," he said. "But we're going to do this in phases. We'll put the programs we know right into the pool, get staff and build from there."
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