Marana plans to make its public swimming pool free, starting this summer.
Fees collected by the town, which add up to less than $4,000 a year, aren’t even enough to cover the wages of the worker who collects the fees, said parks director Tom Ellis.
It’s a common-sense business decision to eliminate the fees, he said.
The issue was part of a broader discussion about all of the town’s fees at a Town Council study session last week. The Town Council plans to make a final decision on fees at its May 20 meeting.
Marana’s public pool, located in Ora Mae Harn District Park, is open from Memorial Day weekend to the start of school. Eliminating the fee won’t affect the number of seasonal lifeguard jobs offered to high school and college students.
With newer pool facilities run by homeowners associations, and with a top-notch competition pool in neighboring Oro Valley, the 1970s pool in Marana isn’t getting as much use, Ellis said. “It’s like a Fiat compared to a Maserati,” he said.
Making swimming free will hopefully improve attendance, Ellis said.
For eight years, the Marana-Foothills Optimist Club has made a donation to the town to cover pool fees for children who can’t afford it.
Ellis said he hopes the club’s relationship with the town continues, maybe using the donation to pay for swim lessons and water-safety classes instead.
Optimists president Wally Smith said the donations are important to help needy kids stay active, healthy and supervised during the summer. She said the project is a club favorite and will likely continue for years.
Council member Patti Comerford said she likes the idea of free swimming, and hopes the town can also offer free pool time for the Marana Marlins swim team. The team currently pays a flat fee to use the pool, but brings its own staff lifeguards, she said.
Marlins board president Debbie Sullivan said free access, which the town allowed until a couple years ago, would mean the nonprofit club would have more resources to help pay for equipment upgrades that benefit everyone at the pool. The club recently bought kickboards that are also used by the public, she said, and it plans to pay for new lane lines.
Sullivan applauded the town’s move toward free swimming.
“There’s nothing in the area that kids can do,” she said, “so this is an opportunity for all kids to exercise, stay healthy, and be cool all summer long.”