Aquatics Center floats into budget talks

The Columbus Aquatics Center made a splash in budget review talks Tuesday.
The Columbus Aquatics Center made a splash in budget review talks Tuesday.

COLUMBUS, Ga. – The Columbus Aquatics Center is making a splash in budget talks. Questions about management structure, as well as staffing the center, all came into question. Parks and Recreation director James Worsley is requesting more than $1.25 million to fund the aquatic center for FY17.

Tuesday, he pleaded his case to city council at the budget review session. He says under a new management structure — which would include one manager and two assistant managers — the center would cut costs by $15,000. The financially strained aquatics center is operating at a deficit of about $900,000. When it came to staffing the aquatics center, some councilors argued for volunteers over fronting the costs for dozens of employees.

The Columbus Aquatics Center made a splash in budget review talks Tuesday.
The Columbus Aquatics Center made a splash in budget review talks Tuesday.

“In presenting a budget, a strict and austere budget, we’re going to have to shift the way we view the world,” Councilor Skip Henderson said. “We’re going to have to evolve.”

The 3rd party vendor contract to run the aquatics center ended, so Parks and Rec will assume oversight over the attraction. Worsley supports hiring five part time clerks, which he says will keep benefits and costs low. He says overtime pay would be less, and the workers could cover more hours overall. Worsley is also requesting funding for two part time park maintenance workers, one full time park maintenance worker, and about 25-30 lifeguards. However, councilor Gary Allen wants to see volunteers take over some of the positions at the aquatics center to cut costs.

Henderson also suggested utilizing volunteers like CORTA and NAIA competitions. Worsley is concerned that volunteers won’t be able to handle dangerous situations on site. Allen and councilor Mimi Woodson aren’t so sure a third party isn’t the way to go again. They argue that going that route would take the city’s hand out of marketing and operations costs. The council is looking at other measures to lower operation costs, including lessening hours of operation, instituting better management, and providing more programs that will attract people to the center.

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