By Brandon McCapes
Sea Otters will continue to run the Winters Swim Team and conduct swim lessons at the city pool for an additional three years, after council members, staff and members of the public agreed the training organization’s handling of services was “highly successful.”
The City Council considered the item alongside a 7 percent across-the-board fee increase tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) at their regular meeting on Zoom April 5.
The city’s relationship with SASO began last year, when they took over training of the summer Winters Swim Team while offering swim lessons to community youth in various age groups. Last year’s program began under the understanding that city staff and SASO would review finances to determine costs payable by SASO for renting the pool at the Bobbie Greenwood Community Swim Center to run its program. Ultimately, SASO paid $3,000 to the city, rather than the $4,000 originally estimated, allowing them to reinvest about $500 in their reserves.
City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa said, “Because it was the first year, we weren’t quite sure what the financials were going to look like. We also created the program pretty quickly under a very limited time frame to launch it last year, as we were coming out of the height of the pandemic, so we weren’t quite sure what the financials would look like.”
Staff will meet with SASO again at the end of the season, and, if program participation is sufficient to cover their expenses, SASO will pay the city $4,000 for both programs.
Under the agreement, which is set to persist through the 2024 season, SASO will handle all registration and provide all instructors for both programs, while the city will provide lifeguards.
“It was a highly successful program last year, and we would like to be able to maintain that relationship under a three-year agreement,” Trepa said.
Participation fees will increase, costing between $95 and $125 per participant per two-week period under the new agreement compared to $85 last year; however, the city will be offering a discounted rate of $75 to participants who qualify for reduced or free lunch through the Winters Joint Unified School District. At the end of the year, the city will issue a check to SASO to cover the cost of the subsidy using funds from the healthy Winters Swim Team Fund, which sits around $74,000, according to Trepa.
“We don’t anticipate that it would be burdensome financially. There are ample funds in the Swim Team Fund, and as long as we are still generating revenue…the fund itself will be self-sustaining to be able to reinvest in supporting the swim team program,” while improving accessibility, she said.
Members of the public and the council approved of the scholarship program during their comments.
“I think this is a real home run, knocking it out of the park — not only bringing in SASO but also having the subsidized swim for people in the community who might not be able to afford it,” Councilmember Loren said. “I think it really respects the legacy of Bobbie Greenwood and what she did for so many decades in the community.”
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Biasi said, “We were all pretty satisfied with SASO running the program last year. They did a good job, and I think having them on for three years is a wise move.”
Biasi also recommended that staff proactively look into new fundraising options for the swim team and Little League, in anticipation of a fireworks ban in the county or state.
Lap swim update
Trepa also used the SASO item as a chance to update the community on lap swim, which is currently not open, as it usually is this time of year. She said that the delays this season are due to a lack of lifeguards and problems with the pool’s heater, requiring repairs.
Regarding lifeguards, Trepa said that the City Council’s recent increase of the starting salary for the position has generated new applicants, who are currently in the onboarding and certification process.
Staff are currently waiting for equipment needed to fix the heater, at which time the lap swim will open to seniors in the community. The rest of the community can expect to be swimming laps after June 6, the end of the school year.
“I know that the pool is of significant interest to a number of people in the community,” Trepa said. “So we apologize for the delay, but unfortunately we now need to do some repairs at the pool.”
In 2017, the City of Winters hired a consultant to do a comprehensive study on the fee schedule for services provide by the city through its building, planning, public works/engineering, police, fire and recreation fees. As a result of the study, fee increases are based on changes in the consumer price index (CPI), adjusting them to meet changes in prices for goods and services.
Trepa said that, unfortunately, changes in the CPI from December 2020 to December 2021 will result in a 7 percent increase in fees across the board. The council voted unanimously to enact the fees, and also made some changes to certain recreation fees.
Lap swim came up once again at this point in the meeting, with the Winters Swim Team and swim lesson fees discussed earlier being exempt, as well as the adult swim day pass, which will remain at $5. The adjustment will affect open swim and 10-day punch passes, however.
The council also adopted Trepa’s recommendation to change the reservation system for publicly rented spaces, such as picnic areas and sports facilities at Winters parks from rentable only for a full day to rentable in two-hour blocks. Trepa said that renters could reserve longer periods in two-hour “chunks,” and that there would be gaps between rentals to prevent conflict from earlier renters overstaying their time. If someone refused to leave after their rental period ended, Trepa said, an on-call public works employee or a police officers would be sent to mediate the issue.