OKC municipal pools could get budget reprieve
Once proposed for cuts, the aquatics centers at Earlywine and Will Rogers parks could still open this summer but not before July 1.
Closing Oklahoma City's aquatics parks was an option as the Parks Department sought $2.5 million in pandemic-related savings for 2020-21.
With the economy slowed by COVID-19 and oil-and-gas industry uncertainties, budget managers expect general fund revenues to decline 5.6% in fiscal 2021.
The city's new budget will be reviewed in a series of public hearings beginning Tuesday and continuing June 2 and 9. The city council is to vote on final adoption June 16.
The city must by law produce a balanced budget. The new budget year begins July 1.
Budget managers initially planned 2.25% reductions for most departments in anticipation of slowing growth in 2020-21. As the pandemic's impact became clearer, departments were directed to cut another 9%.
Parks' single-largest savings will be in previously announced reduced mowing schedules.
Parks were mowed every two weeks last summer, but grass will be allowed to grow three to four weeks between mowings this summer while seasonal and part-time positions and $1 million for overtime are cut from the budget. Sports fields will be mowed.
Lifeguards are being recruited in anticipation of opening aquatics centers and pools July 1.
In addition to lifeguard certification, summer hires will be trained in sanitizing procedures and diplomatic strategies for encouraging patrons to maintain social distancing, said Parks Director Doug Kupper.
Distancing is an issue on pool decks and in concession-stand lines but public health officials advise the water is safe as long as proper chlorine levels are maintained.
Parks has the go-ahead to make an exception to the citywide hiring freeze to staff water attractions. The goal is to hire 100 in the next six weeks.
Riversport Rapids, the public whitewater park managed by a private foundation, is phasing out restrictions that delayed its spring opening and plans rafting, camps and other activities starting Memorial Day weekend.
Some community centers may close for the year though plans are to keep two senior centers open. The two MAPS 3 senior health and wellness centers, city-owned but operated by private partners, remain closed for now.
The Park Commission voted Wednesday to recommend July be designated Park and Recreation Month in Oklahoma City.
The city council's annual budget public hearings have been delayed. All hearings will be conducted by teleconference and begin at 8:30 a.m. Here is the schedule:
• Tuesday: Public Works.
• June 2: Police, Fire, Parks and Recreation, Development Services, Public Transportation and Parking.
• June 9: Municipal Courts, Utilities.
• June 16: Budget adoption.