The LaFayette city pool now charges $4 per person, including parents or adults not planning to swim. The recent 300% price increase from $1 to $4 per head has accomplished exactly what the city had hoped it would – decreasing the number of children (or certain children) swimming.
On a recent sunny Saturday I spent several hours at LaFayette’s only remaining public swimming facility and saw only a handful of children swimming where normally on such a day it would have been filled elbow to elbow with squealing playing kids. In fact, on this particular day, there were more fat old ladies and bald retired men in the pool at 3 PM than there were children, and most of the children were over the age of 15 and more interested in vamping and sunning than splashing around.
A $4 increase might be justified if the city was using that money to upgrade the facility or provide more amenities or staff, but at this point it doesn’t look like the pool is even being properly maintained. Other than replacing the water slide, putting in a baby pool, and adding a metal barn for selling overpriced refreshments through a hole in the fence, the pool remains essentially unchanged from how it looked twenty-some years ago when it first opened.
The funds could go to add more staff or pay the lifeguards more than minimum wage, which isn’t happening – and it’s also not going to pay an adult to supervise the half-dozen highschool kids now running the pool. The extra charge would also be sufficient to keep the pool open past August 6th, but the city has never kept the pool open after school starts back in the twenty-plus years it’s been open. (The highschool-age lifeguards can’t work afternoons during school but there’s not one single reason why it can’t stay open on weekends through at least the end of August if not all the way until mid-September.)
The pool employees I spoke to were as frustrated with the pricing situation as me, and indicated that they had approached the city council about it but had gotten nowhere with that esteemed body. As one female lifeguard put it, they’re too concerned with their $2-$3 million golf clubhouse to worry about what happens to kids at the pool.
The unjustified increase in cost for pool admission leads me to think that the city is intentionally trying to exclude certain elements of the population considered “undesirable” from enjoying city facilities. By raising the cost of swimming to $4 the council has specifically targeted children from poorer families in an attempt to keep them from dirtying the water and disrupting the older, voting, tax-paying citizens who prefer to have the pool (and everything else) to themselves.
Many families in LaFayette can’t afford to give their kids $1 a day to swim, much less $4 – and the summer-long pool pass is some $100 per family. This leaves many parents in a situation where they have to decide between buying necessities like food and clothing or paying a serious amount of money for their children to be able to swim. The ones who wisely choose eating are then left in a predicament of having children all summer without anything constructive to do.
Kids without summer activities are, of course, more likely to find things to do on their own; It’s no wonder LaFayette is covered with small groups of tweens and teens wandering around getting into trouble – because there’s nothing for them to do EXCEPT get into trouble.
While at the pool I observed a group of mixed-gender teens walk right past the overpriced pool in favor of the city’s walking trail where they spent upwards of half an hour “recreating” together unsupervised in the woods behind the rec department.
The city council would, of course, justify the current admission price the same way they justify everything – by blaming it on the economy and a budget shortfall. This is the justification they gave for canceling kids’ summer camps at the rec this summer and their stated reasons for laying off four city employees, among other cutbacks.
But at the same time, the city’s elders didn’t need any justification for the $20,000 they spent last fall on the completely tacky and unvisited singing christmas lights display at Joe Stock park. They also needed no justifcation for the literal millions of dollars spent building a new clubhouse for the golf course last spring. The figures I’ve heard quoted for that project now range anywhere from $2 to $4 million, with most saying the construction cost about $2.5 mil. (No word on whether or not that total includes the cost of replacing the new facility’s mismatched curtains or tearing down the 1993 clubhouse they abandoned last June.)
This fall when the city votes for its mayor and two councilmen, go show those elected officials how much you appreciate the decisions they’ve made which send our city in further decline. Assuming they don’t charge you $4 to vote, anyway.