Q&A with Candidates Running for Pickerington City Council
There are five candidates running to fill three seats on the Pickerington City Council during the fall election this year, incumbent Councilwoman Crystal Hicks, and challengers Nicholas Derksen, Kevin Kemper, William Reed and Brian Wisniewski. The Pickerington Tiger Sharks reached out to the candidates to outline their views regarding the Pickerington Community Pool. As of October 20, 2019, four of the five candidates running for City Council have responded to our questions. The response from the final candidate will be available when and if it is received.
Do you see value in the City of Pickerington supporting a Community Pool and how do you see Pickerington City Council elevating the image of the community pool?
Wisniewski: I was part of City Council at the time which voted unanimously for the City of Pickerington to purchase The Swim Club and turned it into the Community Pool it is now. In 2006 a survey was conducted which indicated over 70% of City residents thought the city should own and operate a swimming pool. I supported the purchase of the pool in 2008 and continue to support the pool and what it brings to our community. I am interested in partnering with Violet Township in forming an agreement to make the pool available to the entire community for the same price versus having a tier-cost approach towards City residents and non-residents.
Derksen: I absolutely do see value in the City of Pickerington supporting a Community Pool. I will give you a personal example: our son Andrew who is 4 years old, just went through the City's Parks and Recreation swimming classes this past Summer. He completed the first three levels and loved every minute of the experience. He also loves to swim with his cousins at the Community Pool. Our nieces and nephew are avid swimmers in the community. I have always found it interesting that the Community Pool parking lot is used as the location for annual 'Touch-a-Truck' event. However, I feel as if the City could do a better job at promoting the pool through our Parks and Recreation Department. If elected, one of my plans is to sit down with each department head in the city to learn more about the issues facing each facet of the city, including the community pool. Also, to elevate the image of the community pool, if elected, we could look at the budget for a potential opportunity for upgrades to the facilities themselves to make the pool more inviting to our community. I welcome any input you may have.
Kemper: I recently became aware that there have been proposals among some city councils members pushing for the city to seriously consider and/or make offers to sell the Pickerington Community Pool to a private entity. While I know that the pool has never been a significant revenue generator for the city, this news came as a very unwelcome surprise. Here's my view as both a regular family membership holder and patron of the pool, as well as a potential council member: The Pickerington Community Pool is a valuable community amenity. It serves families, seniors, singles and the swim community. While we do have some terrific parks and recreation amenities in Pickerington (the skate park, the arboretum, Victory Park), we do not have so many, and the city is not in such straits, that it should seriously consider selling off one of our most well-used and enjoyed facilities.
I am a realist. I understand that between upkeep, equipment maintenance, insurance and payroll that a community pool can be a difficult operation to keep going. I also believe the city needs to be a good steward of public funds. Wherever possible, it should look to save money, reduce expenses and generate revenue. At the same time, we need to recognize that the city is not a business. Rather, the city is a service provider, and that means there may be times when the city provides services that don't always immediately generate a return. Instead of selling off a valuable community asset, I believe the city should be looking at ways to realize efficiencies and generate increased revenue. As this is not an issue I have studied extensively, I hesitate to offer potential solutions at this time. However, I do commit that as your city council member that I will do everything in my power to keep the pool a resource for this community as long as possible. I would also welcome the constructive input and ideas from the local swim community about how to keep the Pickerington Community Pool a viable amenity for the enjoyment of all our residents.
Reed: I think the City should always support a community pool, it's very important to the community. My family has used the pool every year since my daughters were old enough to take swim lessons. My daughters have also attended private parties at the pool and participated in the TryAthalon for several years. We love it. It helps promote physical activity and gives youth a place to meet and be with friends.
The information on the City website is helpful, but maybe the City could do a better job of marketing the pool, since it is tucked behind commercial property and not as visible as other facilities. Using action pics from swim meets might be helpful in marketing.
I would like to see the City partner with Violet Township and maybe a private partner like YMCA to build an indoor/outdoor facility. It would require support from the community though.
How do you see using the community pool as a resource for collaborating with the Tiger Sharks to build our community by engaging youth in positive activities and to promote high school athletics?
Wisniewski: I was involved in athletics as a youth and my kids have been involved in many athletic activities themselves. I believe athletics have a positive impact on children and teach them the value of teamwork and respect, listening to your coach and teammates, the value of working hard and keeping your head high even during a loss. I believe the Tiger Sharks is a valuable resource to the community in teaching these values to our kids.
Long before this questionnaire arrived, I have been researching ways to make the pool more accessible throughout the year vs the few short months it is currently open.
I am very interested in conducting a study from City Council to determine if a retractable cover is feasible for the community pool. Many questions would need to be answered but until we start asking them, we’ll never know what is possible. Links below show some concepts I have been looking into for the pool. When I mentioned above about partnering with the Township it would be for a project such as this to be able to provide cooperative financing which would provide near year-round capabilities for the community pool. A project such as this would certainly enhance the programs available to our youth as well as for the Tiger Sharks organization.
I am certainly open to other ideas and look forward to partnering with Tiger Sharks to enhance the programs available to our youth.
Retractable cover concepts and links:
Derksen: I am a big believer in partnerships, no matter what the issue may be. In this case, since Tiger Sharks, Inc. is a locally owned and operated non-profit, I cannot see why our Parks and Recreation Department could start conversations with PTS on partnering on summer swim classes with our youth. For instance, I know the lifeguards at the pool teach the kids during the summer through a variety of offered levels. But, maybe PTS could be helpful in contracting with the city to offer more in-depth swimming courses for the advanced swimmers such as high school athletes (and beginners as well). Ultimately, I think this stems from having the initial conversation to see what opportunities may lie ahead for both parties. Lastly, it might be in PTS's best interest to talk to the school board regarding high school athletics and contracting with the schools on potential opportunities.
Kemper: While our family has held pool memberships for several years now, neither of our children has yet become involved in the swim community, which means my knowledge of how the city and the Tiger Sharks have cooperated in the past is extremely limited (I do look forward to learning more). All that being said, I am aware that the city used to allow the Tiger Sharks to hold a Pickerington-wide meet at the pool, but in the last couple of years has not allowed it. I also understand that this event was the highlight of the season, brought the community together, and allowed the Tiger Sharks to raise money for the club. If this event is still desired by the swim community and there are ways to alleviate concerns/mitigate issues (parking, safety, etc.), I would encourage the city to allow the event to be reinstated. In my view, we should be taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible to bring the community together in shared experiences. Swimming is a positive, healthy activity that has built a strong community for so many families and children in Pickerington.
Outside of the annual meet, I would encourage the city to continue working with the Tiger Sharks to keep the Pickerington Community Pool as the home of the club.
Reed: It seems that Tiger Sharks and the City are mutually beneficial for each other. The number of participants in Tiger Sharks is impressive and influential. Testimony from Tiger Shark participants, if they're inviting friends, could substantially increase the recreational use of the pool and generate revenue for operation, maintenance and improvements.
Physical activity is extremely important to me. I look forward to learning more about Tiger Sharks. It sounds like you have real momentum. It makes sense to me for City Council to partner with Tiger Sharks.