PAXTON -- Daytime swim hours have been restored at Paxton's public swimming pool for the 2019 summer season.
At a special meeting on Thursday called by the Paxton Park District's board of commissioners, the board voted 4-1 to change the pool hours to 1-5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday and 6-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the pool opens from May 25 to Aug. 11.
Payment rates have been tabled for the board's next monthly meeting, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, with to-be-determined fundraising efforts from a volunteer group of local residents.
Last April, the park board voted 4-1 to discontinue offering open swim in the daytime and on weekend limiting open swim hours to 6-9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Last summer, open swim was available from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 1 to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday and 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Since the park district's vote, a group of local residents started a "Save the Paxton Pool" Facebook page and has been meeting weekly.
Thursday's special meeting was requested by the group, and over 30 people attended, most of whom were against the idea of not having daytime swim hours.
"People keep talking about closing the pool. I understand that the decision was not made to close the pool, but for some of us, we feel like this is a death sentence," Alaina Kief said.
A survey was created on the "Save the Paxton Pool" Facebook page.
According to one of the group's members, only four survey takers out of 201 voted in favor of Monday-Friday from 6-9 p.m. on the question stating, "What hours of operation would you like to see the pool use?"
"I guarantee you that this is not going to work," Myndie Glazik said. "You've got a lot of people willing to volunteer their time, and look what they've done in the couple of weeks since this happened."
Fewer than 40 people came to the pool on 37 of the 85 days the pool was open last summer, and attendance averaged only 31 on Saturdays and Sundays.
Meanwhile, the pool’s operation saw a net loss of $9,976 in 2018. Between 2013 and 2017, the average annual loss was $21,989.
"We're tasked with being responsible with the taxpayers' money. We need to spend that money the best we can," Park Board President Steve Sample said. "It comes down to the numbers -- at what point is that money being spent in a productive way. Are there better things we can do with our money."
Last April's vote was not an easy decision to make, said park board member Bobby Kinnaird.
"We sat in that room for an hour and 45 minutes trying to find the solution," Kinnaird said. "(When) we made the decision that we're not opening the pool during the day, I thought my 11-year-old was going to stab me. I think all of us knew we needed a new business model."
Members of the "Save the Paxton Pool" presented the board with a couple of proposed options.
"We are a group of volunteers seeking to collaborate with the Paxton Park District in an effort focused on the long-term viability of the Paxton Park District's pool," the proposal's overview stated. "We have an immediate interest in discussing and proposing options for the board's consideration to allow for more traditional hours of operation for the 2019 season.
"We also have an interest in discussing the possibility of a pool committee involving our group that is legally and formally structured, with purpose that is mutually beneficial to the efforts of our group and the goals of the park district. We are ready to provide our time and resources to aid in a collective effort to keep the pool operating as usual, while also enabling the park district to better thrive financially in its other programs."
The first proposed option called for day hours from Monday to Sunday from 1-5 p.m. with a cost of admission set at $5 per person, sponsored evening hours on Wednesday from 6-9 p.m. for free, with evenings available for rental or events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and season passes and punch cards sold.
The second option also called for day hours from Monday to Sunday from 1-5 p.m., but with a $4 admission per person. Evening hours would have been from Monday to Thursday from 6-9 p.m. at an admission fee of $1 per person, with with evenings available for rental or events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and season passes and punch cards sold.
In both options, the "Save the Paxton Pool" group would raise funds for financial support.
Paxton Park District Recreational Director Neal McKenry -- who was against the idea of no longer offering open swim hours in the daytime or on weekends "from the beginning," according to Board President Steve Sample -- offered his own proposal at Thursday.
His idea called for daytime swim hours from Tuesday to Friday from 1-5 p.m. and night swim on Wednesdays from 7-9 p.m., with the pool closed on Saturday, Sunday or Monday unless it could be sponsored by a company at a cost of $400 on Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. or at a close of $500 on Monday from 1-9 p.m.
"The pool is not going to be here forever," McKenry said. "There's going to be a day where it's going to close for good and the pool will not be here anymore. That's just the way society's going. Kids are just not active anymore or are just too busy."
While McKenry did not have any price rates in his proposal, he expressed his faith in the "Save the Paxton Pool" group for their potential fundraising efforts.
"I think they're going to back up their talk," McKenry said. "They're not going to walk out the door and never come back. I don't foresee that happening. I feel that there can be something done."