MF pool leaking red ink

Recreation doesn’t come cheaply.

The Martins Ferry Park District can attest to that.

Park Board President Larry Deaton said operating the recreation center is not the problem. Rather, the money crunch arises with the onset of the summer swimming season and the opening of the city pool.

Municipal pools do not make money. Rather, it is how much red ink flows from pool operations and how well officials deal with it.

“Our big problem comes from the drying up of state monies,” Deaton said. “Our park district used to get $2,600 a month. Now it is down to $500 a month. That is a huge drop and makes it very difficult to operate on.”

The city has been very helpful.

“The city has taken over the bills. In addition to gas and electric they pay the phone and Internet services,” Deaton said. “The city also now pays for elevator and fire inspections which are costly.

“We could make it with the city’s help, if we just dealt with the building,” he continued. “But money problems arise when we come to the pool. I have been on the board 12 years and, in that time, we have not made a dime on the pool.”

Costs begin mounting long before the pool ever opens. Chemicals are needed to treat the water. They don’t come cheaply when you are dealing with a half-million gallons of water, as is the case with Martins Ferry’s pool.

“We spend $1,500 on chemicals before we open the pool,” Deaton said.

A drum of chlorine costs $76, a bag of stabilizer is $249, filter septum goes for $270.80 and a bag of filter powder is $31.90. More than half a drum of chlorine is needed daily once the pool is open while four orders of stabilizer, which saves on chlorine, are needed during the season. A bag or two of filter powder is used weekly.

“We need donations from businesses and individuals to help purchase chemicals for the initial startup, just to get the door open,” Deaton offered.

Once up and running, payroll proves problematic.

The park district will employ nine lifeguards and a manager. To meet safety regulations, three guards need to be on the deck or in chairs at all times. The concession person will double as a fourth lifeguard while a fifth person is employed to handle the gate.

The pool is open noon to 6 p.m. each day, which adds up to at least 30 hours paid times minimum wage. The district also has a treasurer at $250 per month.

“We make between $1,000 and $1,500 a month on walk-ins. Last June was a good month but we lost money in July. In August, attendance was sparce,” Deaton said.

The center generates some revenue, but it pales in comparison to the pool expenses.

“The center holds 3-4 wedding receptions a year and we make $150 a month on Zumba and some money on roller derby and renting out space to the Martins Ferry Boosters. But it is not enough to make ends meet.”

The pool, which plays host to 150 Martins Ferry Swim Team members, is also in need of repair.

“The gutter could go at anytime. We need a pool inside a pool,” Deaton said. “Such a project would have a pool at the lower end, a new baby pool and a slide in another section to go with a new filtering system. It would cost $700,000.”

“The pool is a must for the city residents. It will open June 1,” Deaton aid. “There is no guarantee, however, that it will open every year. We are hanging on by a shoestring.”

Admission prices this year are Mondays and Wednesdays: $2 for everyone; Tuesdays, Thursdays through Sundays: $4 adults, $3 students. Pool passes cost $55 for a 30-day for family of four; $35 for 30-day single.

Pool party rental rates are $125 for two hours, $25 per lifeguard (2 required). The pool shelter during pool hours costs $60.

The recreation center is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with $2 for admission. Monthy passes cost: $15, single; $10, senior citizens; family of five, $30 and each additional family member, $10.

Kapral may be reached at