News

Tonight: Public meeting on Menlo pool contract

 

Since the Menlo Park community appears interested in the management of the city's swimming pools, the Parks and Recreation Commission is holding a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 4, to hear public comments on the proposals submitted by the two competing vendors: current Burgess pool manager Menlo Swim and Sport, and SOLO Aquatics.

Go here to view the proposals on the city's website.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in council chambers at the Menlo Park Civic Center at 701 Laurel St.

To read more about the fight between the two clubs for the contract, click here.

Comments

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Posted by Ellie Draper
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 4, 2010 at 10:56 am

The City of Menlo Park is fortunate to have Menlo Sport (Tim Sheeper) managing the Burgess Aquatic Facility. He has taken a rough stone and transformed it into a multi-faceted jewel.

There are great programs available, a professional (and courteous staff), and a clean and friendly environment.

The BEST PART is that the City of Menlo Park has not had to make ANY PENSION CONTRIBUTIONS in the past 4+ years. Significant savings indeed.

SOLO's Tom McRae is a good swimming coach with a warm, affable personality. But he lacks Tim Sheeper's managerial skills, business acumen, and imagination.

I encourage the MP City Council to retain current (Tim Sheeper) management.


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Posted by Damned by faint praise?
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 4, 2010 at 12:57 pm

When I was deciding where to take my child for lessons, we audited Menlo Swim and Sports, Peninsula Swim School, SOLO and the Ross Rd YMCA, even worked with a private teacher in Palo Alto. I was looking for that mixture of technical know-how and teaching/coaching talent. And I wanted my child to feel really good about the instructors.

In my experience, Tom McRae is an outstanding, highly skilled teacher and coach, who is much beloved by his students, their parents and his coaching team. My daughter has taken lessons with Tom and attended the SOLO camp where she got to know his instructional team. She loves Tom and he really brings the best out of her - as do his coaches.


For us, the SOLO experience has far surpassed the other local experiences in technical methodology and shear talent and know-how in handling kids. All of the coaches are focused, highly competent, professional and outstanding motivators. And they run a safe program.

And SOLO is a non-profit program, so one doesn't get the feeling that the organization is totally coin-operated.

We went to the Burgess pool only twice this past summer. I think there was one lane open for free swim at the far end of the pool, w/out stairs. Fifteen minutes after we got in, we were chucked out to make room for another payed class. We were sent to the adult lap pool - which is colder and deeper and not much fun for elementary school kids. Personally, I have felt there were cleanliness issues in the locker room area as well.

Happily, Tom has a BOD to help him formulate his business plans. I trust him to have support where it's needed.

Just my .02.


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Posted by Adam Kerr
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I'm a Menlo Swim & Sport fan, and am very impressed with their proposal, that in large part, simply describes the fantastic programs and services they've put into place over the last 5 years.

I suppose if you take the view that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Menlo Swim & Sport should be feeling very flattered right now by SOLO's proposed programs. What is very surprising to me however, is that their proposal is very blurry on what is currently an active program versus what is a proposed program.

Take for instance SOLO's masters program. They currently have one registered masters swimmer with USMS, while Menlo Masters has 381 swimmers as of Nov. 3, 2010, yet there is no discussion of the viability or attendance at their current masters program in SOLO's proposal.

This argument applies in even greater force to the "Water Fitness", "Recreational Swim Team", "Swim Lessons", and "Women's Water Polo" programs. As far as I can tell, these programs are currently nonexistent for SOLO.

It seems obvious to me that given the significant expression of customer satisfaction that Menlo Swim & Sport has received as email/letters to city council, and the proposal describing their existing comprehensive programs and modest expansion plans that they are the clear choice for Menlo Park.


Like this comment
Posted by splash
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm

It's wonderful that these two organizations have so many happy customers with impressive swimming credentials. I don't know what it means to be a registered master swimmer but I am sure it's a big deal.

I am wondering, in the midst of these claims of superiority, if anyone is going to be speaking on behalf of the rest of us -- the people who don't want to enroll in classes or compete on a team or join a program. People who just want to take our kids or ourselves to a pool and hang out. As Faint Praise notes, right now there is no place for us at our own public pool.

The old city pool used to break down a lot, but at least when it was open you could just go in there on a hot summer day and play. We have not been able to enjoy simple recreation with the new pool, and that is sad, considering that it is supposed to be a public, community-supported facility. Is it? Or is it Menlo Park Country Club? I hope the council remembers the rest of us -- the less profitable recreational pool users -- when it makes its decision.


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Posted by Adam Kerr
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 4, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Dear splash:

I can understand it must be a frustrating experience to go to the pool and not have the access you hope to enjoy. However I think this just speaks to the overwhelming success the current operator has at providing programs for a broad section of the community. Unfortunately, that comes with the price of reduced "open" time. If you check the proposals that have been submitted, you will note there is nearly identical programs and scheduling planned by the two respondents, so this is a problem germane to both respondents. My personal take is that the opportunities for open or lap swim are pretty broad, though they are indeed sometimes only in the performance pool.


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Posted by Damned by faint praise?
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 4, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Splash,

My daughter isn't a fancy swimmer. And doesn't want to be on a team.
However, my whole family would love to think of Burgess as our friendly neighborhood swimming pool where we can go to cool off and have fun during free swim. In this respect, we feel all but completely ignored by Menlo Swim & Sport. :(


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Posted by Damned by faint praise?
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

"I suppose if you take the view that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Menlo Swim & Sport should be feeling very flattered right now by SOLO's proposed programs. What is very surprising to me however, is that their proposal is very blurry on what is currently an active program versus what is a proposed program."

If SOLO had been handed a full pool complex, rent free for five years, I'm sure they would have more than a proposal at this point. As it is, it would appear they have been hugely squeezed out of Burgess as a provider.

What if they shared the space?


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Posted by Adam Kerr
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 5, 2010 at 9:29 am

Dear "faint praise":

"Rent free" is a highly charged and misleading characterization of the situation. In fact, Menlo Swim & Sport has borne all operational costs of the pool complex (heat, light, chemicals, maintenance, janitorial, landscaping, new $150,000 dome, etc.) but yes, they have not paid the city any monthly rent.

And it is certain that SOLO would have expanded as well if they had been running the complex the last five years, but they haven't been. Menlo Swim & Sport has, and they've done an excellent job in the eyes of many residents. If MSS makes a competitive bid for the contract renewal, it just doesn't make sense to me to take a chance on another group running it.

As far as sharing the pool goes---yes, it's part of the RFP that the operator provide time to other community groups---though I think it's also reasonable to expect the operator having some security at being able to recover their costs, either by charging appropriate lane rates or by being the sole provider of some programs. However, it's also clear there are some perceived grievances by Menlo Park parents with kids on the long-standing SOLO team and there should be some way of getting to a solution that doesn't create friction between Menlo Park groups. I don't know if this means an adjustment in lane rates/access or simply better communication of how the solution was reached and why it is a fair one.

There was an interesting suggestion last night to form a User Advisory Group composed of members from a variety of programs that would be a body that could provide guidance to the operator on issues like this. It makes sense to me as the issues would certainly be better understood by such a group than by a less-aquatic focused group like the Parks & Rec Commission.


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Posted by Long Term resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 5, 2010 at 10:29 am

After listening to the comments last night at the Park and Rec Commission, it is fairly clear that SOLO is really just bargaining for more lane time for its elite swimmers and really has neither a serious intention, nor capability to run the entire facility.

Unfortunately this will futher reduce open swim time.

Regarding for profit vs non profit status - please remember the NY stock exchange was a non profit entity when the Grasso over payment scandal broke a few years ago. With very broad limits, non profits can pay themselves almost whatever they want and still be 'non profit'. A more significant difference is that they (non profits) must have a board which bogs down decision making and creativity.


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Posted by City role
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2010 at 1:26 pm

The issue of who should operate the pool has been complicated by the fact that two popular swim programs are competing for use of the facility. Because one of them will win the operational contract, and the two have not negotiated well with each other in the past, perhaps there is a role for the city to remain involved in resolving the lane time and rent issues.

Another thought - perhaps the Sheeper masters program could spend part of its time at the Belle Haven pool. Master swimmers have traveled to Atherton and Redwood City in past years so this is not unreasonable. That would free up more time for everyone else.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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