Summer a bummer for pools in Alle-Kiski Valley
By Liz Hayes
Published: Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
It's been a cruel summer for swimming pools.
Rain plus meager temperatures equaled low attendance at pools across the Alle-Kiski Valley.
“It was hit and miss,” said Nicole Fello, treasurer for the Leechburg Area Pool in Gilpin. “We had some really, really good days, then we'd have some rainy days.
“On a good day, at least 300 people come through the gates,” she said. “A really bad day is, maybe, five people.”
The National Weather Service in Moon reported about 131⁄2 inches of rain fell over 54 days during June, July and August. That's 2 inches — and 11 days — more than last summer.
Temperatures reached the 90-degree mark on only five days this summer, compared with 18 days last summer. But on two of those scorching days this July it rained.
“Another summer like this will be bad for us,” Fello said. “We're not good, but we're not bad. We're holding our own and hoping for a really, really hot summer next year.”
The poor attendance was coupled with about $15,000 in unanticipated repairs and mandated upgrades, such as a new handicap-accessible lift.
Fello said fundraisers, such as the $5 raffle tickets they're selling for a chance to win $2,500, have helped the pool pay its bills.
“The thing is, we try to stay open because we do have members,” Fello said. “We might stay open for five hours and be paying four different employees. That's what hurts you, but you have an obligation to the members.”
“A summer like this — it's been a while since we've had the negative numbers we've seen this year,” said Haley Klaric, manager of the Joseph A. Petrarca Memorial Pool in Vandergrift.
“We had one good week during the heat wave in July,” she said. “That resembled what our normal summers are like.”
She said August was so-so: “We had a good last week, minus the rain (on Wednesday).”
Klaric couldn't say whether the reduced attendance will have an impact on pool finances.
Vandergrift Councilman Lenny Collini did not return a call for comment.
Dawn Hajek, manager of the Southeast Butler County (SEBCO) Pool in Jefferson Township, said poor attendance and the resulting decrease in gate fees may mean fewer upgrades at the pool before next season.
“We've had such good seasons recently, that helped us put more money back into the pool,” she said. “We'll have to be better stewards in terms of those improvements.
“A real good attendance day, we might have 300 to 400 people,” Hajek said. “This summer, we really weren't coming near that. We had a couple days like that, but not as many as previous seasons that were very hot.
“I study those forecasts all the time because of needing to handle staffing,” she said. “A day that was going to be 80 degrees was exciting.”
Allegheny County pools' total attendance and revenue dropped 25 percent this summer; revenue at Boyce Park pool in Plum was down 31 percent, according to data provided by the county.
By late August, nearly 50,000 fewer people had visited county pools this year, generating $202,000 less in revenue.
The county budgets conservatively in case of a bad summer, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said in an email, and the parks department budget relies on more than just pool revenue.
“We can't guess what the impact may be, if any, until we're through the fiscal year,” Downs said.
Jason Cecchini, a board member for Apollo Area Recreation Association's pool in Kiski Township, said the pool didn't take too big of a hit this season.
“All in all, I don't think we did too bad,” he said. “We were expecting to do a little bit better.
“We had more, newer members this year, and we're hoping to get even more next year,” he said. “We did some renovations, and we hope the word got around to our community to entice people to come back.”
All the pools are expected to be open through Monday — but that depends on the weather.
Labor Day weekend may be the nail in the coffin for the 2013 swimming season — more rain is in the forecast, and temperatures aren't expected to climb past the mid-80s.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or email@example.com. Staff writer Aaron Aupperlee contributed.
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