Water park income higher

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Aquatic Park saw fewer patrons last year, but its revenue was up, reaching $155,000, according to a report presented this week to Fairmont City Council.

In 2012, the daily patron count was 24,508, excluding fitness swimmers and private parties. The park took in $146,525.

Last year, the patron count was 22,399, and the park earned $154,961.

The council voted last spring to raise the rates from $4 to $5 – the first increase since the park opened in 1999.

Another change for the Aquatic Park was its policy on weather-related closings. In previous years, the park would close when inclement weather came through the area, but in 2013, the facility remained open and adjusted staffing based on the forecast and patron counts.

The policy was effective in pleasing patrons and didn’t cost as much as the city had anticipated, according to finance director Paul Hoye.

Expenses were up by about $40,000 in 2013, due to capital improvements. Sand filters, a mechanical pump, a lift chair, painting and other expenses brought the year-end expenses up to $377,381. (The city supplements the water park, just as it does with its other parks.)

With remaining funds of $25,000 from what the city had set aside for park improvements, staff suggested the purchase of a clear climbing wall that would allow lifeguards to see through it.

The 12-foot structure would replace the two small drop slides in the diving pool. The slides’ conditions were deteriorating to the point they were not usable, and they have already been removed.

The council voted to have staff bring back costs for other climbing walls, so they could review the options.

In other business, the council reviewed a policy draft for the city’s demolition assistance with blighted properties. The policy includes different criteria for commercial and residential property. Also included in the draft are guidelines for properties the owner wants to deed over to the city for demolition, and properties the owner wants to retain after demolition.

“I suggest we continue on a first-come, first-served basis,” said city administrator Mike Humpal.

If two people apply at the same time and there isn’t enough money to do both demolitions, the council can use the policy’s criteria to score the applications.

Councilman Terry Anderson suggested setting a top dollar amount for assistance, for instance that the city will pay up to 50 percent of the demolition, up to $5,000.

Anderson also asked that the policy state that applications must be submitted and approved before any demolition is started – a past point of contention.