Monday, May 20, 2024

Community Members express swim team concerns at City Council Meeting

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Over 20 community members packed the Leavenworth city council meeting on Tuesday, June 14 to discuss the future of Leavenworth Swim Team, with an additional eleven attendees on Zoom. Fifteen community members spoke up in person and three over Zoom about the future of Leavenworth Swim Team.

Many community members have been concerned regarding how swim team will be run and about communication between the pool, city and public. Additionally, the swim team is facing a deficit due to an unexpected increase in costs, said Hali Fiano, Leavenworth Swim Team board president.

Leavenworth Swim Team faced a $2,500 deficit for the upcoming season due to a five dollar per hour raise to lifeguards and a steep cost increase in the online swimming timing app Swimmingly, said Fiano. A fundraising benefit was held at Yodelin on June 16 where 20 percent of all sales were donated to the swim team.

During the benefit,  a kids talent show was held, and different kids showed their musical talents. But money isn’t the only issue. Both Fiano and head coach Brian Decker, who owns Decker Design, feel that so far, the city has not been communicating ideally with the team.

“I would oversimplify the issue by saying that the city has not been really as willing to give the swim team what they need and be a service to their client,” said Decker in a follow up interview. “I’m a business owner. And I say that I make my money by serving the clients. I’m a good servant. The more I give them the more I get back.”

At the city council meeting Fiano was the first to speak about the swim team issues. She stated the city, pool and swim team have coexisted since the creation of the pool but since she took over the presidential position this year the city and the swim team haven’t coexisted but been more like “enemies.”

“Swimming is like running or any other endurance sport. You have to have time in the water,” Fiano said. “That's why the swim team swims five days a week and has a meet once a week. …It’s vital to the community because we live by the river.”

Many community members expressed concern about children drowning in the river due to lack of pool access and not knowing how to swim. Marco Aurilio, city council member, stated that five to seven people drown in local rivers every year and that three weeks ago a thirteen-year-old died in the Entiat river.

Carolyn Wilson, city council member, said that the pool was named Hopkins Memorial Pool after a concerned doctor. Dr. Hopkins was behind the creation of the first pool because he was “sick to death” of kids drowning in the river.

“That was many years ago, kids were drowning,” Wilson said. “And you have to have a pool to keep them out of the river.”

Community members expressed that even though they had concerns, the city and the swim team should work together, and employees should be treated with respect.

“I don’t know Kelly [the pool administrator] very well. I am sure she loves what she does,” said Jamie Krejci, a community member whose kids have frequented the pool . “As a system I think we need to make sure we are supporting her in any way we can so that these things do not happen… I know that the relationship between the swim team and the pool has been pressed over the years.”

Lucy Lopez, local mother of three kids, said that her preteen daughter loves to swim. It is her daughter's first year on the swim team and Lopez wants her to be busy and healthy during the summer. She wants her daughter to gain confidence and learn more swimming skills.

“If [my daughter] is in the pool, we are fine,” Lopez said in a follow up interview. “But in the river, because she is not afraid of the water, we do not feel confident because she loves being in the water. We want her to learn more skills before we can feel the river is safer for her.”

Lopez said that kids have gotten more internally focused and spend a lot of time on technology due to COVID. She said that if we do not support our kids and do not teach them how to live with love then there will be negative consequences.

“We go to work, and we forget that [our kids] are little humans. They need time and love and respect and community and friends,” Lopez said. “It is not just about food. It is not just about having a house. It is about all the things that a kid needs to grow up healthy and become a respectful adult… if we do the best for our kids, we build a strong community and are safe.”

If Lopez’s daughter did not have the pool to go to during the summer, she is worried about how her daughter would spend her time. Lopez, along with other parents and kids, did not like that kids who know how to swim and have passed the swim test in the past still need to wait a long time to swim test every day before they can go to the deep end.

Lopez said that she feels her daughter is protected when she is alone in town because the community is “amazing” and will look out for her daughter. She feels that the pool is a safe place for her daughter to be when she is at work.

Overall, community members were frustrated about lack of communication from the city, limited hours for swim team and the pool, certain pool policies and future support for Leavenworth Swim Team.

“What does [the city] need from us?” said Mara Merritt, doctor and concerned community member. “The community has said over and over again that the pool is important to us. What do you need? Right now, the pool has not been open on weekends…what can we do?” 

swimming, high school sports, sports, swim team, city pool, city council

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