After yet another round of hardened, inconclusive debate over the fate of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club during the school board’s workshop on Tuesday, the board agreed to vote on the matter one way or the other at its May 16 meeting. But this time a new element is in play, with the very strong possibility of a YMCA coming to town in a few years.
The when the board votes choice will be between keeping the facility open as is, with public memberships, or closing it to the public–at least in its current model–and re-focusing it on students. The public could still rent the facility by the hour, through the same district use-of-facilities agreement and fee structure that enables school property rentals for churches, sports or other events.
When the board last discussed the matter at a special workshop on April 4, for what seemed like the hundredth time since 2015 (it’s only a slight exaggeration), Board members Colleen Conklin and Cheryl Massaro were for keeping the facility open for the public. Will Furry and Christy Chong were for ending the public membership model and running it as a student-centered facility. Sally Hunt was undecided.
If that breakdown holds, the fate of the facility will be in Hunt’s hands. There were no indications on Tuesday that any of the board members had changed their mind, or made it up, in Hunt’s notoriously indecisive case.
But there was that key development. Since the April 4 meeting, the Volusia-Flagler YMCA’s plan to open a YMCA in Palm Coast, possibly in two years (that’s the most optimistic projection), changed the dynamics of the conversation, since a Y with a pool could fill the Belle Terre club’s role. (See: “Volusia-Flagler YMCA and Mayor Alfin in Big Push to Open Y in Palm Coast in About 2 Years.”)
“We have heard from multiple members and the community through our Let’s Talk app who have asked us to keep the facility open until the YMCA comes online,” Dave Freeman, the district’s Chief of Operational Services, told the board. “So with that being said, I would want to ask you if you would like us to table this discussion and continue current operations at the Belle Terre Swim and Racket Club for another year while we work with the city of Palm Coast for bringing the YMCA to the community and we can focus on our K-12 needs.”
“I would love that,” Conklin immediately said.
Furry would not. He acknowledged that the Y’s projects appears stronger than past possibilities, but he didn’t buy the two-year timeline. (But the Volusia-Flagler YMCA itself only offered up that timeline as a hope, not a certainty.) Furry continues to see the club as “a distraction that is keeping us from our core mission. And it has been for a long time. And I really believe that it is not the place of a school to provide a community amenity.” He would also close the gym there.
He argued that even if the facility were closed to memberships, the public, by renting time there, could form an organization that could buy blocks of time–and end up paying less per person than it would through memberships. (Those numbers have not been worked out and seem off the mark: while the facility could be rented for $50 an hour, those costs would add up fast over time.)
To run the facility only for students would cost $81,000 for the year. It would cost double on a membership model, according to figures provided the board, though Conklin and advocates for the facility say that figures don;t reflect what a membership drive could bring in, and how the last few years’ uncertainty and the pandemic depressed revenue there. Still, the facility has been bleeding red for many more years than that.
“This is something that’s on life support and has expired in my opinion,” Chong said.
To Conklin, closing the facility to public uses is short-sighted. “If we’re going to keep it for student use, no matter what we do, we’re going to have to do the capital improvements, period, whether it’s community use or student use. The capital improvements have to be done. It doesn’t matter. It’s not going to be cheaper.” She said the county is growing fast, with only Palm Coast’s swimming pool and the district’s as public options. She sees the facility as underused.
“You could do swim lessons,” she said, “you could provide certified lifeguard classes. You could do swim classes, you could do aqua aerobics. You could maybe talk to Advent about utilizing the pool for therapy. You’ve got the Synchro Belles, the Fluid, you could do underwater hockey, even beginning of water polo. There’s all sorts of classes that could be developed. For the last year or two years nobody’s been doing anything because everybody’s just been waiting for this doom to end it, pull the plug, ever since Covid. The effort’s never been put in to bring it back post-Covid.”
Conklin pressed for at least giving the facility another year. “At the end of the day, this community needs more than just one community pool,” she said, “and I agree, no offense to anybody tied to Bell Terre Swim and Racquet Club, but I’m sick and tired of talking about it as well.” But she doesn’t want the place unnecessarily “sabotaged.”
Furry sensed that Conklin’s argument could pick up momentum, especially if it had time to propagate. He wanted to vote on the issue at Tuesday evening’s meeting. He said it should have been on that agenda. Kristy Gavin, the board attorney, told him it wasn’t.
“I thought you said you reserved a space at the last meeting for tonight,” Furry told the attorney. “I didn’t check but I just remember what you said.”
“I don’t believe that it’s on for tonight, because they were coming back with proposals,” Gavin said.
But Furry remembered correctly. Gavin had said the item would be on the agenda, at least as a place-holder.
At the special workshop in early April, she had said that “we could have it on the board meeting as an agenda item for a vote. Just because it’s on the meeting for a vote, it can always be pulled from the meeting for a later time to be voted upon. If at that one o’clock hour you’re not ready for a vote, if you still need more time.”
Tuesday’s workshop was that 1 p.m. meeting, and in some board members’ views, and Freeman’s, the operations director, there clearly was new information worth considering.
The board could not agree which direction to take just yet. Hunt did not tip her hand. So the vote will take place on May 18, once again giving the advocates and opponents of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club to mobilize.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
Why would Chong, Furry and Hunt ever care about the fate of a pool to serve our community since their interest lie with a corrupt chamber ? Conklin had very good ideas, but no Furry had to shot them down before even considering one of them. Again remember this at voting time folks they need to go. and NOT move onto any other county positions. I do hope that the Y comes to fruition so that we don’t have to deal with them anymore, Adios!
Merrill Shapiro says
I am not sure if this is the proper time or place to raise some questions about the way the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club is run. But who is in charge of creating and managing the business plan for the Club? Who is in charge of promoting its availability to the public? How would anyone know it is available for rent? Has it ever had a membership drive? Do people understand the value they get for their memberships? What is happening as far as independent fund-raising for the Club?
It just seems as though no one is treating the Club like a business while everyone expects it to run like a business.
Judy Back-Zack says
They have no business plan for the club!! When we formed a 501c Advisory committee back in 2015 we were able to sign up over 350 new members in a couple of months. We ran fundraisers etc. Then they took us out from under FTI and we floundered and of course Covid didn’t help. The school board hasn’t advertised the place since then and has cut the hours so that no one that holds a 9-5 job could/would join. This was (in my opinion) done on purpose. Thanks to Dr. Conklin and Ms. Marsaro for trying their best to keep it open. Please tell everyone you know to check out this place (at 73 Patricia Dr). It’s a wonderful and friendly place enjoyed by all age ranges (not just seniors). And please come to the next school board meeting and give us your support.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Once again its the 2 dingbats you fools ellected! Ms Hunt is unsure, she has to talk to the Peacock! Parents take you vouchers & go. This is a runaway train, an institution of confusion, and our kids pay the price for all this bickering, and crazy ideas.
Doesn’t having a “Y…MCA” violate Florida’s Don’t Say Gay laws?
Yep – it sure does. And, if you think about it, I saw a post a while ago mentioning that having students call their teachers “Mr.” or “Mrs” or “Ms” is gender-affirming. But of course, that’s the “good” gender-affirming, the kind Uncle Ronnie can get behind.
And there are sooooo many other place where the vague definitions of standards can make almost anything like being a ‘gentleman’ or being a ‘lady’, calling someone ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’, etc. a violation.
Hey Christy, you are not the person I voted for ! What is your damage ?
I voted for you and after 3 emails to you, I still haven’t gotten a response
Bitter too says
Oh so this is a pattern for her. She hasn’t replied to any of my emails either.
Judy B says
The gym building and equipment are in good shape We acquired new equipment from Fitness One when it closed and the older equipment was made back in the day where things actually lasted forever!! I am happy to pay the $330 a year it costs to be a member. For those with Medicare Advantage plans (Silver Sneakers etc.,), if the gym closes their insurance will not cover them to use the pool. They have cut the hours to only 3PM Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and 6PM Monday Wednesday and Fridays (closed Sundays). With all this beautiful weather the pool would be slammed with families on Sundays. There is NO advertising for years now so even people who live in the”P” section don’t know it’s there let alone all the hundreds of newcomers to Palm Coast. The offer free membership to teachers and other school employees but according to what I’ve read online, they don’t inform them about this perk. Some of us have been going there for 10, 20 even 30 years!! Do we as taxpayers, not count? ITT gifted this property to the schools for this purposed as a community place. I beg all of you in Flagler County (even if you are not a BTSRC member), to show up and be counted at the School Board meeting/vote on May 16th!!
Yvonne Bianco says
They do not offer free membership to teachers anymore. They did away with that a few years ago. They do offer a discount for teachers
Roxyanne Young says
With the way this community is growing, we absolutely need more facilities for swimming and working out. The whole middle section of the Lehigh Trail will be closed for months while the construction is underway on the new pickle ball facility at Belle Terre and Royal Palms. I don’t know why they couldn’t have included a public pool there, too, and a weight room would have been nice.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
Why are things so hidden about this swim club? As I read some comments here as one person commented that this club was gifted to our community by ITT! People in the community not in the know about perks, equipment donated by a health club, why wasn’t this club advertised more to the public? Appears to me that the 3 fools on the school board have already made decisions as they did with Middlestadt’s fate. Since they are in with the corrupt chamber maybe the intent is to knock it down and made condos to further stuff their pockets, I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can throw them. The Y proposal is nothing concrete yet, if that doesn’t happen we will have nothing. Show up and fight on May 16, we need to take our county back and don’t forget this folks, vote these 3 fools out!
Absolutely Disgusted says
It is painfully obvious that these two board members will oppose anything that Conklin and Massaro are in favor of while Sally sits in the middle undecided until she is told what to do. These people are being paid, yes PAID, to do this job and their pay is more than some people make for a 40 hour work week!!
Celia Pugliese says
I believe that there is the Grandfathering Law of public use and the affected residents that received the membership use of this pool from ITT originally as amenity perk for their homes buying need to bring this right to these 2 bozos so far, as Hunt hope will vote along with Conklin and Massaro to protect this community very needed pool to be kept open and for more hours in the late spring and summer!
No all can afford a pool home so that is our community pool whether given to the school back them to manage or not, the school has not right to close a pool the the community membership grandfathered been using for 30 or 40 years..? We pay attorney Gavin with our taxes so do those residents members that are planned to be booted by Furry and Chong. Can attorney Gavin look into the Grandfathering Law protecting the use of a government facility by the taxpayers? Otherwise those elderly in fixed incomes and also families with children members also in limited incomes need to unite and call the number in the next link maybe under “class action” for denying a healthy needed activity to the community! These firms a very effectiveI . https://www.clsmf.org/ or https://www.lsc.gov/grants/our-grantees/community-legal-services-mid-florida-inc-program-profile. The second entity has one lawyer Raven Sword here in Palm Coast that works pro-bono as member of Community Legal Services of Mid Florida, https://www.observerlocalnews.com/news/2022/sep/16/local-attorney-named-flagler-county-pro-bono-attorney-of-the-year/. I believe Doug Courtney could speak to the firm representing the group after all agree. A class action won by all residents affected against these two or three school board totalitarians will be a great public pride for the firm. Good luck to all never give up to preserve your pool for the community!
Celia Pugliese says
Also Attorney Marc Dwyer does pro-bono for Community Legal Services of Mid Florida:
Kelli NESSELHAUF says
Keep it open while Y being built. Giving your community the opportunity to continue exercising. Duh
Celia Pugliese says
Bad city and county administration, management approved by our elected ones! Millions wasted in a non working splash pad at Holland Park inspite of the common sense opposition of then Councilman Jack Howell. Millions approved thanks to Flukas push for trendy pickle ball courts to be built but zero for the needed community pools that were built for the community membership use to atract homes buyers and now intended to be shut down to their use. They should be repaired, upgraded years ago if needed. No more excuses from demagogues keep the Belle Terre pool open to all until an “affordable” Aquatic Center or Y opens! Or otherwise we are going the way of Compton CA, disserving the people!