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Belle Terre Swim Club Gets a $25,000 Annual County Lifeline and Nears Membership Goal

| December 9, 2015

More hope at the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club. (© FlaglerLive)

More hope at the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club. (© FlaglerLive)

Six weeks ago, at the end of a year-long, often tortuous process that had the Flagler County School Board see-sawing between leasing or closing the troubled and ageing Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, which the district can no longer subsidize, the board reached a strained compromise. It would not lease the property, because it couldn’t find an organization qualified to take it over. But it would not close it, either, as it had planned to do in fall. Rather, it would give an ultimatum to an emerging advocacy group for the club. The Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club Advisory Committee, as it calls itself, would have until January 19 to secure 400 annual club memberships valued at $200 each. If the committee falls short of that number, the board would most likely close the property, which last year lost $137,000.

On Saturday, at the second open house the committee organized in less than three months, the group added more memberships, raising “between 235 and 250 annual memberships, and that was done in five weeks,”  Doug Courtney, the group’s leader, said, while monetarily the group has raised $50,000.

And on Monday, in a surprise windfall, the Flagler County Commission agreed to contribute $25,000 a year to the operation, the equivalent of 13 to 15 percent of the club’s operating and personnel costs.

“Jacob came to us, we openly discussed the idea of potentially partnering,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said, referring to Superintendent Jacob Oliva. A partnership would not be unusual. School board and county share annual costs at Carver Gym in Bunnell and at the Youth Center on the campus of Flagler Palm Coast High School. “This is one way we could help on an annual basis through our social services program,” Coffey said. “I want to give Jacob and Kevin something to take back to their board so when they make a final decision on whether this is a go or no go, they know the county is on board for an annual contribution.”

The $25,000-a-year contribution will make it difficult for the school board to revoke the club’s new lease on life even if the advisory committee were to fall short of its goal.

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The scaled-back hours at the club mean that it has $71,000 in personnel costs and $119,000 in operating costs, with memberships potentially providing $80,000. The rest, Kevin McCarthy, the head of the district’s Flagler Technical Institute, which includes adult-education components such as the swim club, said would be generated through daily user fees and the Silver Sneakers program, an insurance program that subsidizes users of the facility. That was before the county’s pledge of $25,000, or any additional monetary pledges from the advisory group.

The county commission made its pledge, with little discussion or opposition, during a workshop Monday afternoon. McCarthy summarized the history of the club as he’s had to do a half dozen times in the past year—its ongoing deficit, failed attempts to lease the property, and the district’s unwillingness to keep carrying the club on its own.

Commission Chairman Barbara Revels asked whether any other government was willing to participate—namely, Palm Coast. The answer is no. Palm Coast runs its own pool and so far has been uninterested in underwriting the district’s, though Mayor Jon Netts was at the latest Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club open house, last Saturday, to show his support, and said the city will be helping the club’s membership drive through its parks and recreation department, with signs and an awareness push.

At one point the county administration was considering contributing $50,000 over two years, as a one-time infusion to help the club become more attractive to potential lease holders, if Palm Coast were to also match the $50,000.  “That never really went anywhere,” Coffey said. “This is more of a long-term strategy, that if the membership can stay up, we can continue to contribute as a senior program. If they cease to exist or things change in the future, obviously we won’t be bound to contribute.”

“Think of it as a gap-closure and think of it as non-school board money that helps hem close those gaps,” Coffey said. The district is not allowed to use any general fund dollars for the club’s operating costs. It must use money generated only through club memberships, and through grants.

Commissioner Charlie Ericksen asked whether memberships alone could carry the club. If history is any guide, the answer to that, too, is no: lack of enough memberships led to the deficits.

“I’m on board, what’s the next subject?” Commissioner George Hanns said, summing up his colleague’s approach.

Only one voice spoke in opposition to the plan at Monday’s meeting: Jack Carrell, who attends all city and county meetings and addresses most topics, usually with a crusty point of view that takes a dim view of government subsidies for social programs. He pointed out Palm Coast’s perennial six-figure deficits as the city keeps subsidizing its golf and tennis club, and said the school board was doing the same thing with Belle Terre. Citing the number of people who use the club—but using a figure lower than the actual—Carrell said, “250 people out of 60,000, no, 80,000, doesn’t call for support.” He said the school board was mismanaging the property and coming to the county for help.

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8 Responses for “Belle Terre Swim Club Gets a $25,000 Annual County Lifeline and Nears Membership Goal”

  1. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club

    The home courts of Palm Coast touring pro Tom Gullikson
    Resident pro available for private or group lessons
    25 Meter Swimming Pool.
    Nautilus exercise facilities
    Take I-95 to Palm Coast exit ( halfway between Daytona Beach and St. Augusting). go west to Belle terre Parkway, then left to Club entrance
    Palm Coast phone…in Daytona call…..
    Most probably eligible for Official Heritage History MARKER & Grant monies.
    Thank you.

  2. CarMichael McMillan says:

    We are grateful to all of the people in the community and the leaders who took the time to take a look at the Belle Terre Swim & Racquet Club. Anyone who takes the time to speak to the members and learn the history of the club will easily come to the conclusion that the facility is one of the most heavily utilized public facilities with a passionate core of users who will work to keep it going for generations to come. A facility well worth saving.

    Although Jack is correct in pointing out the deficits in the Golf Course and Tennis Center. The deficit in those facilities are much larger than that of the Belle Terre Swim & Racquet Club. Those facilities only cater to a small number of residents. They do not have the potential to become profitable in the same way the club does. The comparison is unfair.

    The task of righting the finances of the club is not as daunting as those other facilities. The club also serves a wider base of residents. At the club we have toddler swim classes and tennis lessons for kids. A weight room open to teenagers and adults (one adult now over 100 years old). Tennis courts open to all. Adult education classes in yoga, martial arts, pool exercise classes and swimming lessons. lets not forget the world famous Synchrobelles practice here. There is something for everyone at the club. The club is also far more affordable than those facilities. Annual membership is now cheaper than any gym in town, kids are now free. You can’t beat the deal now offered by the club.

    Even without the counties contribution the task of returning the club to positive cash flow was simple a matter of garnering more members. We are going to get there.

    Thank you to everybody that has worked to get us to this point. This has been an amazing community undertaking. From folks volunteering to bake cookies and food for our open house events, folks who pulled weeds to spruce up the landscape, took out trash after events, did the heavy lifting of setting up and packing things away for our events, to all the folks who showed up at community meetings in support of the club. This has been amazing.

    Now lets get back to getting those members. We’re not done yet.

    CarMichael McMillan

  3. Just me says:

    Great news now how about the City of PC chipping in????

  4. YankeeExPat says:

    I wish them Good Luck in adding and retaining memberships, but my experiences with the Belle Terre pool has been that if you’re not a long time member they will take your money, but really don’t appreciate you being there to share in the use of the facilities. Since the Frieda Zambia pool is closed for the season (I still don’t get why it is not open all year), I checked out the YMCA in Ormond Beach. It’s a 25 minute trip, but is a Clean, Modern, maintained facility. I don’t need to belong to a click. or a the social tribunal of the shallow end, all I want is to get some laps in. And, for that reason I, as many other Palm Coasters, am nudged to support businesses and organizations outside of Flagler County.

  5. Root Cause says:

    The gauntlet of Red Light Cameras have ruined so many businesses in PC. Glad to see that they’ll be getting rid of cameras!

  6. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    Historic Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club listed as a ‘ Community Milestone’:

    Palm Coast Pioneers
    20th Anniversary
    May 12, 1992


    1969-70 Land Development, Welcome Center/model homes
    1971 First nine holes. Palm Harbor. Home construction
    1972 Pioneer Residents. Yacht Club & Palm Harbor Swim Club
    1973 Back Nine, Palm Harbor. Handy-Way. Volunteer FD
    1974Shangri – La. Oceanfront Sheraton Palm Coast Resort
    1975 The Palm Club Palm Coast Service District formed
    1976 Corp. of Engineers, authorities completion of 23 mile saltwater canal system
    1977 The Woodlands. Decca marine 1st Industry. Pop. 2,4000
    1978 Nancy Lopez becomes touring pro. ITT – CDC Palm Coast headquarters opens
    1979 Palm Harbor Shopping Center. Swim and Racquet Club. Tom Gullikson becomes touring pro
    1980 Palm Coast Marina. Pine Lakes Golf Course. Fairways Condominiums. The Witteman Co.
    1981 Pine Lakes Country Club. Pine Lakes Village. I-95 interchange. Palm Coast Industrial Park. Palm Harbor Professional Office Park. Woodhaven. Pop 5,4000
    1982 Two districts merge into Service District. Belle Terre Middle School. Animal Shelter. Library
    1983 Intracoastal Industrial Park/Sea Ray. Harbor Club
    1985 Matanzas Woods G.C. New Parkway. Palm Coast names state ‘ Blue Chip Community’ for economic development
    1986 Players Club. Sheraton Palm Coast Resort. The Oaks. FAA. Sea Colony Pop. 9,700
    1987 CEAG & American Radionics. St. Joe Plaza. Wadsworth Elementary. Beach Club.
    1988 Hammock Dunes Bridge. new post office/Wal-Mart/HealthCenter/Theater. New Fire Station
    1989 Hammock Dunes. Frieda Zamba Park. Pop. 15,400.
    1990 Cypress Knoll Golf Course. Kingswood Center. St. Joe Business Center. Old Kings Elementary
    1991 Cracker Barrel & Bealls. Urban Forestry award. Flagler Auditorium. Community Service Corporation
    1992 Two new industries coming. Pop. 18,200 & Growing

  7. Diane says:

    Thank you Palm Coast administrators for wasting more tax dollars on the Belle Terre Swim Club .

  8. scoff the cuff says:

    A pledge was made. A check was not signed.
    But the ‘mud bowl’ has theirs, SITE unseen. And no doubt Flagler Auditorium will get theirs as well.
    Health and fitness? Nah.

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