The Kennedy Park Pool may not be as busy as in previous years, since it is not free anymore.

LEWISTON — The community pool at Kennedy Park has always been known as a place to cool off in the downtown during summer heatwaves – for free.

But now, it’ll cost you at least $1 to beat the heat. 

City officials say a new fee system was put in place this year to keep up with costs, which are only expected to rise heading into next year. Operating and maintaining the pool costs Lewiston about $25,000 per year, and keeping it open for nine weeks in the summer has been eating into other recreation programs. 

According to Jason Hanken, superintendent of Lewiston’s Recreation Division, funding for the pool and splash pad has always come directly from revenues generated by the department’s other recreation activities. That means programs like lacrosse, adult volleyball and other sports leagues. 

The daily rates at the pool are now $1 per person for Lewiston residents, and $2 per person for nonresidents. The pool opened in late June, and generally closes in late August. 

Sheryl Morin, senior principal clerk for the Recreation Division, said staff generally don’t ask for proof of residency.

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“We were told we need to be self-supporting,” she said Thursday regarding the new fees. “It was a difficult decision. But it was either we keep it going, or close it.” 

Hanken said after his department was told fees may be necessary, he researched other communities. Many, he said, including Bangor, have fees associated with their community pools. 

But, he said, the department realizes that even $1 can be a big change for families who have been coming to the free pool for years, many of whom live in the surrounding downtown neighborhood that’s considered mostly low-income. 

He said staff at the pool told him that some children have arrived to swim, found out there’s a fee, and then returned later with handfuls of change. 

“We didn’t want it to be too much,” he said, adding that some people he talked to about implementing a fee were surprised Lewiston didn’t already have one in place. 

So far, recreation has heard limited feedback, but expects to hear more in the coming weeks. Hanken said one family told him that by charging $1, the overall atmosphere at the pool area seemed to have improved. 

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“I think it’s going all right for introducing a fee after so long,” he said.

With about a week of training for employees, the pool season is typically nine weeks. The aquatics program is budgeted for $25,405 in fiscal year 2017-18. Hanken said depending on thunderstorms and other closures, the costs can sometimes range between $19,000 and $25,000 for the summer.

However, he said part of the expected rise in costs next year is the slated statewide minimum wage increase. The Recreation Division hires part-time lifeguards and aquatic aids. 

Heather Hunter, Lewiston’s finance director, said Thursday that, “The cost of hiring certified lifeguards and an increase in minimum wage directly impact the cost of this program.” 

Hunter said the aquatics program – the pool and associated splash pad area – is one of several included in the “recreation activities” fund, which includes programs like basketball, soccer, tennis and day camps. 

“Some programs are more profitable than others, therefore surpluses from some programs offset the additional costs of others, for example the aquatics program,” she said. “Looking at it holistically, the department suggested the nominal $1 fee structure in fiscal year 18 to help support the program’s costs … these programs in totality should be self-supporting as they are not part of the general fund’s municipal appropriation.” 

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The Kennedy Park pool has a height limit and the number of people allowed in at one time is determined by the number of lifeguards on duty. Hanken said it’s too early to predict if the fee has affected attendance, but admission is recorded. He said some days there will be 200 people using the pool, and 50 to 60 on others. He said the pool averages about 80 to 100 guests per day. 

The pool is open 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and  11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on select Saturdays (July 15, 22 and 29, and Aug. 5).

For more information, call the Recreation Division at 207-513-3005. 

[email protected] 

The Kennedy Park Pool may not be as busy as in previous years, since it is not free anymore.

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