Swim clubs in deep end over new fees

Oak Flats Swimming Club president Jim Egan (left) and club member Peter O’Driscoll. Picture: DAVE TEASEShellharbour City residents have been given one month to come up with ideas to prevent the introduction of admission charges at council swimming pools.To help save $100,000 from its pools budget, Shellharbour council is proposing to break with a longstanding tradition of providing free entry to its Warilla, Albion Park and Oak Flats cold water pools. It wants to introduce a $2 admission charge for adults and $1 concessions for children and pensioners.The council had initially flagged reducing the seasons at Warilla and Albion Park pools by 11 weeks, a move that led to strong objections from amateur swimming clubs.A working group was formed to come up with alternative solutions, but Oak Flats Swimming Club president Jim Egan said the working party was “dominated by council officers” and new proposals had made the initial plans look more appealing.”They have reintroduced a family pass, but it goes from $243 last year to $426 this year,” Mr Egan said.The council has led with the argument that attendance numbers at pools last financial year meant that, in some cases, it was costing the council more than $6 per pool visitor.But the claim has infuriated working party community member Peter O’Driscoll.”Nine out of 10 surf club members use these pools for training,” he said.”They are volunteers who patrol the beaches each summer. What is a lifeguard worth an hour? Can they put a dollar value on that?”People are already contributing back to the council and the community by doing patrols.”Our pools and the kids who use the pools are an asset.”Council staff say Shellharbour is one of very few remaining councils that allow free use of freshwater pools, but residents point to nearby Wollongong City Council pools at Berkeley and Unanderra which remain free.The new proposals are on public exhibition until September 7.Council administrator David Jesson said “no firm decision had been made” and encouraged people to make submissions.
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