By Holly Cook
The Roeland Park city council on Monday gave consensus to direct the Johnson County Park and Recreation District to move forward with filing an insurance claim to replace the Aquatic Center’s dome, which was damaged beyond repair in an October wind storm.
JCPRD had told the city they would pay the $25,000 insurance deductible to have the dome replaced if the city planned to continue winter operations of the pool beyond the May 2019 expiration of the city’s joint-funding agreement with JCPRD.
JCPRD and Roeland Park currently split the operating cost and capital expenses associated with the pool. Without any JCPRD support the city can expect to incur an annual loss of at least $221,458 to keep the pool open during the winter season. Additionally, Roeland Park would be responsible for the cost of placing and removing the dome each season, which is about $46,000.
The suggestion to have JCPRD move forward with filing the claim was made by the city’s freshly sworn-in mayor, Mike Kelly.
Kelly said Roeland Park would continue exploring funding options to support year-round pool operations, but could not guarantee the city would be able to support the pool’s winter season beyond May 2019.
Councilmembers Tim Janssen and Claudia McCormack did not signal their support of the motion, noting they thought city funds could be better utilized to support residents.
City administrator Keith Moody agreed, saying he thought the expense outweighed the value of providing the year-round operations. Moody noted that only 107 of Roeland Park’s 6,800 residents use the pool in the winter. The remaining users are from a variety of Johnson County or Jackson County communities.
“How much is it costing us to provide this benefit to this group of folks?” Moody asked.
New councilmember Jen Hill said she would like the council to look at the big picture benefit the year-round operations brings to the community instead of just focusing on the 107 residents who use it.
Councilmember Becky Fast said she had been disappointed with the JCPRD’s lack of commitment to continuing funding the pool and said she felt the county was “pulling out of the northeast.”
Fast agreed she would like to see the pool remain open year round, but said she wasn’t sure it would be possible.
“I’ve really struggled with how and where we will find this money,” she said.
Earlier this year Roeland Park requested that JCPRD cover 75 percent of the operating loss of the pool during the indoor season only after the May 2019 agreement ends. Roeland Park would cover the remaining 25 percent in addition to 100 percent of the outdoor season. The JCPRD board rejected the request and did not provide a counter suggestion.
City staff has also been exploring potential alternatives to the dome including erecting a permanent structure or using a solar blanket cover.
During Monday’s meeting councilmembers asked JCPRD superintendent of recreation Rhonda Pollard if JCPRD would be open to continuing to work with the councilors in finding a middle ground to support winter operations of the pool. Pollard said she thought the board would be open to reviewing a request with a specific dollar amount.
“I think they would be willing to hear a number,” she said.