The city of Deer Parkâ€™s offer of free swimming at the municipal pool this summer has made a big splash with area youngsters (and their parents).
The 70-year-old facility, which came close to being shut down this summer because of budget concerns, has attracted scores of youngsters over the past two weeks as temperatures easily topped 90 degrees during the day.
The pool averaged well over a 100 patrons a day during the recent heat wave. On July 12, the number of pool patrons hovered near 200.
The idea of free use of the swimming pool this summer was first broached by City Clerk Deby Cragun because of the late opening of the facility this year. The pool usually opens at the end of the school year, but, because of maintenance issues, it was not ready until July 2.
Cragunâ€™s suggestion was passed onto Mayor Robert Whisman, who endorsed the plan when he asked the city council for its approval.
â€śIt seems to be working really well,â€ť said Whisman, who is considering extending the free swim program next summer.
City officials debated closing the swimming pool during last fallâ€™s budget workshops when it was noted that the facility, faced with dwindling use, lost $70,000 in 2011.
It was estimated that only about 35 youngsters used the pool on a daily basis last year when a daily pass cost $1.50.
Whisman also noted that a large portion of the financial savings would not materialize if the pool was closed. The city, he explained, earmarks $40,000 in pool expenditures to wages for city crew workers. Those funds would still be spent only in other city departments.
The recent surge in its popularity has come with another set of problems for city officials.
Cragun is working with county officials to determine the capacity of the pool. She is also determining how the surge in its popularity will impact the lifeguard crew since the number of lifeguards on duty is based on the number of youngsters using the pool at any given time.
The city has a lifeguard crew of nine with Allison Gladhart and Cylee Scott as the only returnees from last year. Zac Farnam is in his first year as pool manager.