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School District Likely to Close Belle Terre Swim and Racquet to the Public in September

| July 22, 2015

palm coast swim and racquet club

End of an era. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast’s Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club’s days as a public facility are likely over. The Flagler County School Board, which runs the facility, is recommending closing it to the public as early as September because it’s been losing money for years, increasingly so: this year’s $137,000 loss is double the January projection.

The district has been negotiating with the Volusia Flagler YMCA to take over the facility and run it as a YMCA, with membership access, much as the YMCA operated in Flagler when it occupied space for almost a decade at Florida Hospital Flagler until 2011. There has been no YMCA in Flagler since.  But negotiations between the district and the Y, originally thought to result in a proposal in spring or early summer, have run into some snags. It’s no longer clear whether the two sides will agree to a deal. The Y was not even mentioned in a discussion of Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club’s future in a brief school board workshop on the matter Tuesday evening, though the negotiations were obliquely mentioned.

The two sides “continue negotiations and discussions are taking place,” School Board Chair Colleen Conklin said, “they just haven’t reached a place where something can be brought to the board for any kind of recommendation of approval. There may be something that comes out of that that will allow the public to use that facility.”

But until then, Tom Tant, the district’s finance director, said it would not be wise to keep the place open, financially.

“Our administration that runs the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club does an excellent job. They work very hard at what they do and they do a very good job,” Tant said. “What we have is a change in the way the community reacts to the facility, and they have other facilities to go to.”

Palm Coast now offers numerous fitness options through private businesses that offer low rates and late-night hours, making the school-district run facility an anachronism.

“Therefore what we would propose is that we realign the facility to service our K-12 students’ population,” Tant said. “What that means is we use the facility for our highs school swim teams and maybe we do a rental of facilities for the Synchro Belles, and we close the facility for public use, because public use is very small at this time.”

The “realignment” would be financially necessary, if the school district intends to keep spending money on the facility, as it will have to: it is not allowed to spend money from its general fund, but must rather use money from the district’s adult and community education department, which has run the facility for many years. That department has had its own financial difficulties, though they’re mending. But it cannot keep supporting the club. So by re-categorizing the facility for use by K-12 students, the district would theoretically be able to spend money from the general fund to keep it going—assuming K-12 students use it. “And because it is applying to the swim teams and the K-12 program, then we wouldn’t have a problem with the auditors supporting that facility with K-12 funds,” Tant said.

Currently, there are no K-12 programs that require swimming pools. There are 9-12, or high school, swimming teams that do. But the swimming teams at Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast High School have used facilities at Palm Coast’s Frieda Zamba pool and in Volusia County.

Tant says the facility will cost $30,000 to keep running as a K-12 swimming pool. But the numbers he submitted to the board Tuesday show that even without personnel, the bill for water and sewage alone was $21,800, electricity came to $36,000, and bottled gas to $3,000, while repairs and maintenance came in at just under $5,000. Those costs alone add up to $65,800. (The overall cost of running the facility in 2015 was $283,000.)

With a September shut-down planned, the district will also have to reimburse Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club memberships that run through December. But there aren’t many, totaling just over $1,000, with most of them expiring in September.

“As you can tell the memberships have declined. They were declining last year and they’ve declined even further,” Tant said. “We wanted to look at a target date when the summer memberships are over, which would be Sept. 7.”

The school board will decide in two weeks whether to go with the superintendent’s recommendation.


16 Responses for “School District Likely to Close Belle Terre Swim and Racquet to the Public in September”

  1. YankeeExPat says:

    “But negotiations between the district and the Y, originally thought to result in a proposal in spring or early summer, have run into some snags. It’s no longer clear whether the two sides will agree to a deal.”

    Translated for we Common Folk!

    “The Flagler County School Board has no intent of giving up any of its Political Power”
    The Serfs, (I mean the citizens) will need to go find a Swinging Hole somewhere else in the Fiefdom!

  2. Erik Matock says:

    It might do better if we knew about it. I have been here almost 4 years and didn’t even know the place existed until today. It sounds like it might be a pretty good option to a gym membership if it was promoted. Just a thought.

    • Cecil Aardvark says:

      I would have to agree with you. We moved here about two years ago and this is the first time that I have heard of this pool too. And we looked for local public pools and found the Freida Zamba pool. But the fees!

  3. deb says:

    why doesn’t the City take it over? they don’t seem to mind losing money.

  4. Glenn Partelow says:

    With 80,000 people inthe County what must be said of the management by the school system to accrue such a debt? Now the people of Flagler will have very few options to swim. The City of Palm Coast has a facility called Frieda Zamba pool. The City has a myoptic view of not opening that pool until Memorial Day and even then withvery restricted hours. Then they begin closing on weekends after Labor Day. Does Park and Rec believe we live in Vermont?
    The City needs tp out on a fast track the planning for a decent aquatic facility for the health and saftey of the population if this County.
    Other communities are open year round often beginning at 7AM. And closing at 8PM.

  5. Rebecca says:

    [Selected as the Comment of the Day in the July 23 Briefing.]

    The Belle Terre Swim & Racquet Club is a beautiful facility, but the reason they don’t have more membership is because the staff is SOOOO anti-kids! My family had a membership there about five-six years ago. On our second trip to the pool my daughter was made to sit out on the side of the pool because she was “rough housing.” We were at the pool as a family and it was just myself, my husband and our daughter. My daughter was simply being a kid, jumping in off the side of the pool. When I questioned why she was being made to sit out the woman who ran the pool told me that she was making too much of a splash when she jumped in the water! Are you kidding me???? She said that my daughter was disturbing the older swimmers who were trying to swim laps. Isn’t the reason for a swimming pool to have fun, splash around and get some exercise? My daughter was doing NOTHING wrong whatsoever and if we had been approached politely I would have spoken to my daughter myself and asked her to move down to the other end of the pool. She was given no warning of any kind and the woman was plain RUDE when speaking to her (instead of talking to my husband or I and letting us parent our OWN child!) Needless to say we went right to the office and got our membership dues refunded, NEVER going back there again.

    A swimming pool is a place where kids and families should be able to gather and have some fun fellowship. I understand that there is a need for the older patrons to have time to swim their laps, but maybe you should have considered having a set time for that sort of thing. If you were more kid and family friendly you may have attracted more people to your facility!!! I hate to say it, but I think the Belle Terre Swim & Racquet Club has dug their own grave and now they have to deal with losing this beautiful facility!!!!

    • Casey says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      I used to be a lifeguard at this facility several years ago. It’s unfortunate to hear about the experience you had while there, but one person’s rude actions do not represent a whole entity. Many of our lifeguards were young (high school and college aged), and tried their best to accommodate swimmers of all ages. There were lap lanes delegated solely for lap swimmers, while the rest of the pool was intended for classes and free swimming. Nonetheless, it is true that many of our patrons were elderly.

      It’s fortunate to see this establishment in such distress. It’s been a staple of this community for years, but it has not kept up with the times. It did not adapt in order to compete with other facilities in town. Hopefully YMCA will gain control so that the public can continue to enjoy it.

  6. Why does the pool not have specific hours for the kids and 2 hours or so specificly for Seniors? I had a membership to the pool but quite honestly, I don’t want to be there with screaming & crying kids and have an announcement 2 or 3 times during a vist that everyone has to get out of the pool because someone’s child pooped in the pool. We as Seniors, just want to go and swim in peace and quiet for a little bit of time each day. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask. We’ve all raised our kids and don’t want to have to contend with screaming, hollering, and pooping any more. We’ve done our time.

    • YankeeExPat says:

      With your Plan I’m not a Child nor a Senior, So am I SOL. It is a Public Pool, if you’re that rattled by Kids you should spend your time making sure the neighbors kid doesn’t let their ball roll onto your yard, it will equally occupy your time. I’m sure that your own Children would be elated to know that own childhood with you was part of your incarceration (“We’ve done our time”) ………………Please, don’t be offended that I can’t shed a tear on your behalf.

  7. tomc says:

    God forbid that the people who pay for everything the School Board does should have a swimming facility.

  8. Rob says:

    At least the School Board has enough sense to stop throwing tax payer money away and get out of a losing proposition.

    The bright as a two watt bulb city councilor doesn’t mind throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on a golf course and tennis court.

  9. in it for the bass says:

    I’m interested to see what these conversations would be if the article said “School District realized a financial deficit – keeps swimming pool open anyway, just because.

  10. Jim Wjames says:

    This screams wasteful spending.

  11. groot says:

    If you think this is bad, check out the loses incurred by Palm Harbor GC so far this year! As bad as that is, the city is pouring another $1.5 million into Palm Harbor GC on top of the losses. These public facilities need to be self supporting or be privatized or closed is there is no private buyer. At least the school board has enough smarts to get out when they can and realize that they can’t afford it. The city and that Palm Harbor golf course is much worse. So, why was that contract with Kemper renewed? Why another $1.5 million into a losing cause? Why is it still losing money? It makes about as much sense as paving a road that the city does not own.

  12. BLUF says:

    Red Light Cameras caused me to cancel the membership there a few years ago; I think there were 16 cameras round trip from my residence to BTSR Club. Also, I witnessed on many occasions the same scenario that Rebecca mentioned in her comment block above.

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