Parks and Jarstad pool bear the brunt of Bremerton's budget gap

Parks will take the biggest hit in Bremerton’s amended 2010 budget passed Wednesday, resulting in reduced park maintenance and, to the chagrin of swimmers at the City Council meeting, the elimination of dollars for the Glenn Jarstad Aquatic Center.

In an effort to close the city’s $2.4 million budget gap, Bremerton Parks and Recreation is taking a 17 percent reduction through the end of 2010, cutting more than $277,000 from what was originally a $3.2 million budget.

Chris Warthen, a Parks and Recreation Commissioner, protested the cuts, saying the city needs to treat parks as an essential asset that can’t be cut.

“The Parks and Recreation is doing a lot with very little,” he said. “I want to see them be able to go forward.”

To offset the shortfall, the city is leaving the pool business and is in negotiations to hand over operation of the Jarstad pool to the Bremerton YMCA. If the city does not find an organization like the YMCA to manage the pool by Sept. 1, it will close.

Both Jarstad pool swimmers and YMCA staff members and volunteers spoke for and against the pool’s potential takeover by the YMCA.

Dan Nohel, former manager of the pool, said the public needs to be included in the city’s decisions about the pool and feared that a merger with YMCA would lead to a membership requirement to use the public pool.

Ronn McMahon, vice president of financial development and marketing for YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, said YMCA management of the city pool would not necessarily force people to join the organization.

“We’re very interested and hopeful that we can work together to solve this issue,” he said. “We want to be part of the solution.”

The city loses more than $200,000 a year operating the pool.

Other cutbacks by Parks and Recreation include reduced irrigation of park lawns, reducing the number of administrative assistants, letting go of seasonal workers and closing city fountains in November and December, said Wyn Birkenthal, Parks and Recreation Director.

“It’s unfair that the Parks Department is going to take the big hit,” Councilman Roy Runyon said, adding that maintaining fire and police services was the city’s top concern. “But we do have to prioritize.”

In order to avoid layoffs, Fire and Police Department employees agreed to at least 4 percent salary cuts.

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