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Proposed 125 Live agreement raises concerns about pool access for youth swimmers

The new 125 Live agreement covers a variety of issues, from providing free space for the city’s AccessABLE Recreation program to a plan for proposed renovations to an unused lower level space.

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A fitness program is conducted in the warm-water pool at 125 Live.
Contributed / 125 Live
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ROCHESTER — A proposed agreement between 125 Live and the city of Rochester has a pair of local swim organizations crying foul.

“Seniors now have priority over youth, in direct conflict with the mission under which the Rec Center was built,” said Bill Shaughnessy, president of Rochester Swimming Inc.

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He said the Rochester Swimming, designed as a nonprofit to support youth swimming and diving, was left out during two years of discussions that resulted in an agreement being presented to the Rochester City Council.

He said the group, along with the Rochester Swim Club, saw the proposed agreement for the first time on Thursday, without a chance to weigh in.

The new 125 Live agreement covers a variety of issues, from providing free space for the city’s AccessABLE Recreation program to a plan for proposed renovations to an unused lower level space.

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The swim organizations, however, voiced concerns starting Thursday in emails and on social media about a plan to lock in a pool schedule for 125 Live.

”The proposed contract, scheduled to be discussed at the city council meeting in a few days, (which) gives 125-Live 70 hours/week of pool time for free,” stated a Rochester Swimming Inc. post on Friday.

The 70 hours is related to the warm-water pool built when the 125 Live facility was constructed. Another 10 hours are provided in the city’s 50-meter lap pool, and the organization has the opportunity to rent additional space.

The agreement leaves the Rec Center with 32 hours a week available for programming in the warm-water pool, and 68 hours in the lap pool.

The schedules largely reflect the current June schedule for pool usage, but Shaughnessy the concern is that it locks the use in for five years, and swimming pool access remains a local challenge.

The Silver Lake Park swimming pool is currently closed for repairs, and the YMCA facility has shut down.

Sylwia Bujak Oliver, 125 Live’s executive director, said she understands the swim club and others feel there’s a need, but it shouldn’t take away from current programming.

Additionally, she said the 50-meter lap pool frequently sits unused during times when 125 Live has activities in the warm water pool.

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“We can have another empty swimming pool sitting in Rochester, or we can have the community actually using this space,” she said, pointing out that the majority of 125 Live uses are during school hours or when the outdoor pools are available.

Autumn Kappes, Rochester Swim Club CEO, raised concerns about cost in an email sent to city officials, citing more than $13,000 in rental payments to the city for use of the pool for swim lessons and other activities, while the new agreement outlines subsidies for 125 Live.

The subsidies, however, are largely unchanged from current practice.

Rochester Management Analyst Heather Heyer said 125 Live initially paid rent for use of the pools when it opened in 2016, but financial struggles changed the agreement and the city dropped its charges to 125 Live in 2017 to ensure the center continued to operate.

The new agreement calls for up to $119,700 in annual compensation for 125 Live, while the nonprofit drops the $14,400 in annual rent for Rochester’s AccessABLE Recreation program.

The result is a $300 increase in the city’s budget for the current year, if the new agreement is approved.

Shaughnessy said he questions the expense. “I don’t think the general taxpayer is aware of all of this,” he said.

Bujak Oliver said the city supports opening 125 Live for community events organized by the city, but it also helps the organization offer reduced rates to community organizations that work with underserved communities.

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When combined with other programs, she said approximately 3,000 of the 4,500 members of 125 Live don’t pay for access to services aimed to keep older adults active and healthy.

“They can choose not to support us,” she said of the Rochester City Council. “But, our programming and services will suffer.”

She said the proposed agreement with the city isn’t ideal for 125 Live, but she sees it as a workable solution

Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish noted as much in an email to Kappa on Thursday.

“While our goal was for everyone to come away happy with the balance that we tried to find here, it seems like we might have to settle for what is least upsetting for all stakeholders,” he wrote.

The City Council will be asked to support the new agreement with 125 Live during its 7 p.m. meeting Monday, June 20, in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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