Fairmont Aquatic Park loss hits $340K in 2018

FAIRMONT — In 2018, the Fairmont Aquatic Park sold 236 family passes, the highest number in the last eight years.

Participation in swimming lessons involved 422 students. The pool saw almost 21,700 patron visits, which was more than 2017, but less than 2016.

Overseeing it all were 97 seasonal employees consisting of lifeguards, concession/guest services staff and management team members.

The City Council heard these numbers Monday in a recap of last summer’s activity at the aquatic park.

The pool generated $159,000 in income, but expenses ran about $500,000. Additionally, more than $99,000 was spend in capital improvements to refurbish the pool slides and to replace a splash pool heater at the aquatic park.

“It (pool) has served us well for 20 years. It’s pretty natural to run into capital improvements,” said Mike Humpal, city administrator. He added that employees are one of the biggest expenses at the pool, and many of them return for multiple summers.

Paul Hoye, city finance director, told the council that operations at the aquatic park are analyzed every year to look for cost-saving measures and to keep prices competitive with surrounding communities. Rates will be increased this summer to $6 for daily admission, $3 for fitness classes, $75 for student season pass, $95 for adult season pass and $175 for a family season pass up to five members, with $25 for each additional member.

“We subsidize swimming lessons a good deal, but when you are a community of five lakes, swimming lessons are pretty important,” Humpal said.

Ruth Cyphers relayed comments she had heard questioning why the aquatic park was closed over Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. Humpal said weather over Memorial Day weekend often is not warm enough, and there is a shortage of employees available over Labor Day weekend.

In another matter, a public hearing on a conditional use permit for an electronic messaging sign at St. Paul Lutheran Church drew protests from two neighbors. Bob Charnecki of 500 Albion Ave. and Ruth Schauberger of 111 Oxford St. previously expressed their opposition to the sign at a recent Fairmont Planning Commission meeting. The planning commission unanimously supported the sign which would be mounted on the church’s west wall close to the Victoria/Oxford intersection.

Charnecki believes an electronic sign is not appropriate for a residential neighborhood and asked the council to reconsider or deny the request or send it back to the planning commission.

Schauberger said she would get the greatest impact from the sign because her house was closest to it.

Council members noted that the conditional use permit requires the sign to be off from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. and that other electronic messaging signs at St. John Vianney Catholic Church and Immanuel Lutheran Church had drawn no complaints from neighbors.

On a 4-1 vote, with Cyphers dissenting, the council approved the sign permit.

“This is a conditional use permit so if it does become a problem, it can be addressed,” Councilman Tom Hawkins told Charnecki and Schauberger.

In other business, the council set two public hearings for 5:30 p.m. April 22 to transfer an open lot and a house to Habitat for Humanity of Martin and Faribault Counties.

The city razed a house at 407 N. Elm St. after acquiring the property as a tax forfeiture and has been mowing and maintaining the sidewalks. Habitat for Humanity will pay for a survey of this lot and all closing costs.

The city also acquired the property at 415 E. Sixth St. as a tax forfeiture and has been mowing and maintaining the sidewalks. Habitat for Humanity will pay $1,500 for the house, for a survey of the lot and all closing costs.

In other business, the council:

o Approved rezoning property at 651 Fairlakes Ave. from single-family residential to multiple-family residential to accommodate the 77,000-square-foot expansion of the Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center. The council also approved the preliminary and final plat of the Lakeview addition.

o Approved advertising for bids for the 2019 street improvement projects and also approved the sale of $2.725 million in bonds to finance the projects.