Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mayor to cut wading-pool hours, delay hiring 21 police officers in midyear budget cuts

Police hiring will be delayed and 10 of the city's wading pools will be shut down under Mayor Mike McGinn's midyear budget cuts announced Monday.

By Emily Heffter

Seattle Times staff reporter



Gage Burnell, 5, runs through a waterless Ravenna wading pool. Mayor Mike McGinn will shut down 10 of the city's wading pools or convert them to spray features.


Mayor McGinn's reaction to city budget cuts

The impact on wading pools

To cut costs, Seattle is closing or reducing hours at some wading pools. The new plan:

Open seven days a week: Green Lake, Lincoln, Magnuson, Van Asselt, Volunteer Park

Open three days a week: Bitter Lake, Cal Anderson, Dahl, Delridge, E.C. Hughes, East Queen Anne, Hiawatha, South Park, Soundview, Wallingford

Converting to a spray feature: Georgetown, Highland Park, Northacres

Closed: Beacon Hill, Gillman, Peppi's Playground, Powell Barnett, Ravenna, Sandel, View Ridge

Police hiring will be delayed and 10 of the city's wading pools will be shut down or converted to spray features under Mayor Mike McGinn's midyear budget cuts announced Monday.

The mayor plans to postpone hiring 21 new police officers and to lay off 13 city employees, along with a variety of other cuts, to save a total of $12.4 million.

McGinn and his budget director told the City Council during a briefing that they were just getting started. To balance next year's budget, the city will have to cut more than $50 million or find new sources of revenue to fill the budget hole.

The midyear cuts don't require a council vote.

The mayor made a point to leave open public swimming pools and community centers for the rest of 2010 — something residents had clamored for at a series of public meetings this spring.

"We heard very clearly, as I believe you did, that parks services are valued very highly by our community members and [we] are trying to preserve those as much as possible for the rest of 2010," Budget Director Beth Goldberg told the City Council.

Wading pools are another matter. The city plans to convert the Georgetown, Highland Park and Northacres wading pools into spray features. Spray features are less expensive to operate and appeal to a wider age range, Goldberg said.

Wading pools are staffed by seasonal attendants who, when the temperature hits 70 degrees during summer, fill the pools and test the water every hour for health-safety standards, according to parks-department spokeswoman Joelle Hammerstad said. They then drain the pools and clean up at the end of the day.

Attendants are certified in first aid, CPR and chemical handling and have water-safety training — but they are not lifeguards, she added.

The parks department had hired 40 wading-pool attendants, but 20 will be let go because of the closures, she said. The remaining 20 will have reduced hours.

Still, asked about the parks-department reductions, Hammerstad said, "We feel pretty darn good about it. We are able to preserve the vast majority of our programs and services."

But it's clear the cuts are far from over, she added. "In terms of next year, it definitely will be much worse. We really have no idea what that will look like."

Read the rest of this Seattle Times story HERE.

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