District could be headed to student-focused facility at Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club

The School Board could decide the club's fate on April 18; at least two board members are in favor of ending club memberships and focusing on the facility's pool.

Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club.
Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club.
File photo
  • Palm Coast Observer
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The Flagler County School Board seems to finally be on the verge of deciding what to do with the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club. But then again, as board members noted at an April 4 special workshop, they’ve been here before.

The two hour-plus workshop ended with the board split on whether to shift to a student-focused facility concentrating solely on the pool or whether to continue to offer community memberships that includes the gym, sauna and tennis courts.

Will Furry and Christy Chong are in favor of doing away with memberships, using the pool for high school swim teams — currently Flagler Palm Coast uses the pool while Matanzas swims at the Palm Coast Aquatics Center — while continuing to rent out the pool to community groups like the Flagler Fluid Swim Team and the Synchro Belles.

Colleen Conklin and Board Chair Cheryl Massaro would like to see a mixed-use facility, although Massaro alluded to a possible middle ground. Sally Hunt said she would like to have another conversation among board members.

The board ultimately decided to schedule the item for the April 18 information workshop along with an agenda item at the School Board meeting that evening to hold a vote on the issue if the board members agree they are ready to make a decision.

Furry was hoping the board would come to a consensus at the special workshop.

“The intent of this meeting,” he said, “was to finally stop kicking the can down the road.”   

Doug Courtney, representing the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club Advisory Committee was invited to the session joining Flagler Schools’ Coordinator of Community Services Joshua Walker, Chief Financial Officer Patty Wormeck and Chief of Operations Dave Freeman at the board table.

Courtney said the club could become self-funded if it marketed the facility the way it did in 2013-14 when he said it sold 338 memberships in three months.

“This facility has to actually sell services,” he said. “Selling memberships is not exactly hard to do.”

The facility’s operating budget for the current fiscal year is $315,134.79. It had a shortfall of $88,067 last year, according to the district. Courtney noted that last year the district stopped accepting memberships for six months while it pursued the possibility of adding portables on the site for existing school programs.

With the county’s $25,000 annual contribution and added revenue of about $63,000 from insurance companies that pay for their clients to use the gym, the district estimates that the current 136 club members would have to pay over $1,000 for the year to break even. That number factors in $81,425 the district would absorb for student use of the pool.

There could be other revenue sources, such as offering a $25-per- month pool add-on fee for insurance members. Even with increasing memberships to 220 and adding a potential $41,700 in additional insurance company revenue, annual membership fees would need to rise from $300 to $427.87 to break even, according to district calculations.

The district estimates an operating loss of $177,803 this year due partly to added personnel costs with the district raising their lowest salaries to $15 an hour.

There’s no reason why we can’t figure out how to benefit all. Regardless, we have to maintain that pool anyway. — COLLEEN CONKLIN

Conklin said the facility’s expenses never turn out to be as bad as the estimates. She said the facility, built in 1979, was gifted to the school district 26 years ago by taxpayers and it continues to be an asset for the community.

“There’s no reason why we can’t figure out how to benefit all,” she said. “Regardless, we have to maintain that pool anyway.”

Furry said that he agrees the district does need to hang on to the pool until a new one is built, possibly on a new high school campus, but he would like to see the gym close down.

“I don’t think we have a very marketable product. We should shift to a student-focused facility and end the membership program,” he said. “If we do away with the gym, we knock off $74,000 in costs. And those who are passionate about the pool can form their own club to rent out the pool.”

Chong agreed about leaving it as a student-focused facility. Hunt said she would like to see the board find a middle ground, but she said she thinks future community use of the facility would be centered on the pool.


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