Members of the Atlantic City Aquatic Club, hoping to have their concerns about high fees to use a public pool addressed, instead heard Monday that the Board of Education intends to start its own swim program.
Club President Joe Haney said the board’s unwillingness to renegotiate will probably force the club to end its tenure at the Atlantic City High School pool.
School District Superintendent Donna Haye announced the new program in a brief statement prior to the public session of the meeting. The program would be offered to Atlantic City residents at no cost, she said.
“We hope this becomes a feeder program to the Atlantic City High School swim team, which is an outstanding swim team,” Haye said. “In addition, we want to offer programs on junior lifeguard training so that our kids can go out and have positions within Atlantic City, at the beaches, and within the casinos as lifeguards.”
After the meeting, Haye said there are no additional details available about the new program.
This year, the Atlantic City Aquatic Club is being asked to pay about $85,000 in fees, up from about $7,000 a year.
Haney said the club can’t afford to pay the new rate. The club has paid its existing fees through October, but would not be able to pay new fees after Nov. 1.
The club uses Atlantic City High School’s eight-lane pool for six four-hour sessions per week. Of the 152 club members, 62 live in the city. Nonresidents pay a higher fee, which helps offset the cost for city residents.
During the public portion of the meeting, Haney and Jacob Sless, whose daughter is a club member and a member of the high school swim team, urged the board to renegotiate the rate.
Haney explained the program and lauded the diversity of the club members. In addition to Haney and Sless, dozens of club members and their parents showed up to the meeting wearing the club’s orange shirts.
Councilman Frank Gilliam spoke briefly during the public session, stating his support for whatever decision the Board of Education made regarding the club. Councilman Marty Small also attended the meeting, but directed all questions regarding the new swim program to the Board of Education.
Haney and a few others waited around until the end of the meeting hoping that one of the board members would address them directly, but no one did.
“I was hoping that they would come to the pool deck, see what’s going on, ask questions, and see how we run the business end up, see how the parents are, and maybe they would have a second thought,” he said.
Haney said that the club’s board met with the school board last week, and that the school board had hinted at creating a new swim program. He said that he did not expect them to announce the new program before he had an opportunity to speak in the public session.
“It takes some of the air out of your balloon,” he said. “It’s not what we came here hoping for. We came here hoping to do something together. We were hoping that they would want to work with our program, which is like none in the United States, and for whatever reason they don’t want us, and I have not been able to figure out why.”
It is unclear when this new program would begin, how it would be funded, and who would run it. Haney hoped that perhaps the new program would include the club in some way.
“Maybe with what they’re doing, they’ll give us a chance to incorporate what we’re doing,” he said.
Last week, city officials were reviewing an agreement that would make the club an official municipal recreation program. It is unclear how the decision to add a new swim program will effect that decision.
The club spent its entire annual budget keeping the program alive through September and October. Members paid the annual rate with the hopes that they would be reimbursed after a new rate was renegotiated.
Staff writer Emily Previti contributed to this story
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