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Reston Association Looks at Altered Pool Schedules, Possible Closures

by Karen Goff September 18, 2015 at 9:30 am 86 Comments

Shadowood PoolReston Association’s Board of Directors is looking into altering outdoor pool schedules — including the possibility of closing up to four of them.

In a 2016 budget work session on Wednesday, Deputy Director for Recreation Laura Kowalski presented several cost-savings options to the board.

The board opted to move forward with two of them: to change seven pools to weekends-only from Memorial Day until the last day of school in June, and to change the number of pools open from mid-August to Labor Day from eight to four.

Reston Association has 15 outdoor pools that cost about $1.6 million annually to administer and staff. They also take in upwards of $800,000 in revenue, according to RA documents.

Changing to the weekends-only schedule early in the season would save about $10,000 annually, RA estimates. Reducing the number of pools open in late August would save about $14,000.

RA’s Board will vote on the final budget and set next year’s assessment in November.

The board opted to leave early morning and late evening swim hours at North Shore and Lake Thoreau pools in place, as well as keep North Shore and Ridge Heights open before Memorial Day and past Labor Day. It also will keep offering free sunscreen.

“I think having a longer pool season adds to the value of the pool pass,” said Larry Butler, RA’s Senior Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources.

A suggestion put to the board was shutting down the least-used pool in each district: Shadowood in Hunters Woods/Dogwood; Tall Oaks in Lake Anne/Tall Oaks; Autumnwood in North Point; and Newbridge in South Lakes.

Autumnwood has had an average of 10,165 visitors per summer over the last five years; Shadowood, 3,542; Newbridge, 4,211; and Tall Oaks, 4,587.

Closing each pool would save RA from $47,116 to $59,849 per pool annually, but that would only result in a savings of less than $3 on annual assessments, RA estimates show.

Butler explained it is not that easy to close a pool. When the former Lake Anne Pool was turned into a park over a decade ago, there was much discussion with Fairfax County, as well as large expense, said Butler.

“You have to get determination for zoning,” said Butler. “When Lake Anne [Pool] closed, the development plan specified ‘pool/tennis.’ The county said you had to replace it with something equivalent. You can’t just close it, bulldoze it and walk away.”

Butler said it cost RA about $700,000 to repurpose Lake Anne Pool into a park. He added that $40,000 was in demolition costs alone.

Board members said closing pools is a tough subject that is worthy of more discussion, but not as a means of keeping assessments down. They said it should be part of a future bigger discussion on facilities and long-range planning.

“Some pools are just not getting utilized and it is costing us,” said At-Large member Michael Sanio. “We have to look at what the opportunities are for savings.”

Some of the other suggestions: Save Tall Oaks for a joint investment opportunity when the Jefferson Apartment Group redevelops the nearby Tall Oaks Village Center; encourage pool rentals to groups and corporations to increase revenue; and consolidating staffing, operations and schedules among pools located close together.

  • Henry Rearden

    So they squandered all that money on TETRA and now those poor kids will be without a pool

    • Ming the Merciless

      EXACTLY. Somehow we can afford a useless, shabby, overpriced building but not the pools. Great job, RA!

      I can’t wait to see how “utilized” the Tetra building will be. I have no doubt we will discover that the income / use projections were wildly overstated (i.e., a deliberate lie).

      • Henry Rearden

        I just am biding my time until I can get some more equity into my home and get the heck out of South Reston. Had I known this was how it was going to be, I would have moved further west

        • Virginia Harlow

          After 40 yeas of assessment raises, I can tell you, they won’t stop at just a little bit. It just keeps on…..like the leviathan growing across the Potomac… RA isn’t any different than having another layer of government. Taxpayers long ago voted against that!

  • Billyt

    Yeah they can afford a new building, new property but an amenity that is widely considered one of the most valuable reasons to live in Reston. Typical govies. Keep building your castle! So glad we moved from Reston and don’t have to pay the tax for the privilege of their Gestapo HOA.

    • Henry Rearden

      That’s because Ken Plum and those like him never have to use the pool with the rest of the unwashed masses. Instead they go retreat to their private infinity pool or go to their country club.

      • Billyt

        Truth! “Not my problem! I have a pool in my huge back yard!”

      • Karen Goff

        What does Ken Plum have to do with an RA decision?

        • meh

          I think he is saying the leaders of the RA are just like out of touch elected officials who make decision based on what their friends or supporters want versus what is best for the majority.

          • Henry Rearden

            That’s a bingo!

          • Thomas Day

            That doesn’t explain why Ken keeps getting reelected. By the majority.

          • Henry Rearden

            Ken runs unopposed. If you’re the only one on the ticket it’s hard to lose.

          • Thomas Day

            Because no one wants to run against someone the majority likes.

          • Henry Rearden

            Name one piece of legislation brought up by Ken that has helped you in some way over the last 10 years.

          • Ming the Merciless

            You know that gerrymandering that Ken keeps yapping about and hypocritically opposing? It is the reason he keeps getting reelected.

        • Thomas Day

          Ugh. I don’t envy you for doing this thankless job. I Couldn’t even make it through all these comments.

          • RoadApples

            TD:
            Most importantly: I commend you for your disclosure in displaying your name.
            That being said. ( Not agreeing nor disagreeing with you )
            I cringe reading your sophomoric comments.

          • Greg

            She does get thanked (even by me from time to time) and I presume she gets paid.

        • Greg

          Perhaps a story? He’s an RA member and pays assessments, no?

      • old Reston resident

        I saw Ken Plum a couple weeks ago at the Ridge Heights pool.

  • CE

    First off the weekend only thing makes sense because kids are still in school in June. Second limiting the pools open from 8 to 4 when there are still crowded is stupid. It can still be in the 90s in late August and kids are not in school yet. Just selfish. Third Autumnwood is a great pool that should not be closed. I get closing Shadowood and Tall Oaks but aren’t those pools used by a lot of lower income residents? Probably consider that. RA must be run by a bunch of idiots and this is proof. At least they have a $100K website and Tetra property which someone got rich on paying way more than it was valued at. RA you suck!!

    • Reston Realist

      They tried closing several pools a few years ago based on a survey (yes, a survey) and some cost analysis. The neighborhoods were up in arms.

      My suggestion: Just tear down the Tetra building–and don’t do another damn thing to that property which was an insider job for Lake Newport area residents.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Let’s see. So you folks are for the doubling of the population in Reston, but still want to close down over-subscribed public amenities? Remember that the HoA is for the MEMBERS, not the Elected.

    • Henry Rearden

      The next HoA that’s run with common sense and civility will be the first. Most of these are just stay at home soccer moms on a power trip

    • Reston Realist

      Actually, most of that population doubling will be in Reston Town Center, which is not part of RA, and generally uses residential complex-based pools, etc., vice RTC community amenities. In fact, I can’t think of anything RTCA has done for its residents.

    • Greg

      “[O]ver-subscribed public amenities? Care to share the basis for that statement? If you are talking about RA facilities, they are not public; they are private.

      Most of the new developments have their own pools, better amenities and are not mandatory members of the RA.

  • vachamp

    RA is considering raising assessments by $33 for 2016 & another $17 for 2017.

    We can make wise investments to preserve & improve RA without those type of assessment increases. Assessment increases like that will be difficult for our young families, our senior citizens, our disabled neighbors, our low income families & more. There are plenty of budget line items that could be cut in order to keep the assessments lower.

    Some areas of concern… RA spends approx $120,000.00 for a glossy quarterly RA magazine. They print approx 85,000 copies & mail out approx 70,000. Does it have to be a glossy magazine? Do we really need to print 85,000 copies & mail out 70,000 copies.

    Some additional info, based on 2014 tax returns …Legal fees totaled: $645,448 in 2014. Chadwick Washington was our highest paid contractor (legal): $430,683; & an additional Odin, Feldman & Pittleman (legal- land use ) $139,731. Do we really need legal counsel to attend the RA board operations committee meetings? Do we really need legal counsel to attend all board meetings? & or perhaps we should explore hiring an in house legal staff person/people in order to minimize our legal expenses.

    Salaries for 2014: $6.5 million

    Top base salaries at RA were paid to CEO Cate Fulkerson ($180,000);
    Senior Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources Larry
    Butler ($129,076); CFO David Harris ($116,846) and Director of
    Communications Kirsten Carr ($108,039). Harris and Carr both left the
    association in 2015.

    There are plenty of ways for RA make wise investments in Reston to preserve & improve Reston while saving money & holding assessment increases down. You can review the budget info for yourself. I encourage you to do so & to contact the RA board.

    links to the RA budget docs are below

    https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2015%20GENERAL/082414%20Meeting%20Materials.pdf

    https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2015%20GENERAL/091615%20Work%20Session%20Meeting%20Materials.pdf

    https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2015%20GENERAL/073015%20Meeting%20Materials_updated.pdf

    as well as links to the RA youtube meeting vids

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvA5A0zA85A

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTtnUMFuaHw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTtnUMFuaHw

    • CE

      We need a coup d’état. Every last person in that board meeting needs to be replaced. They are selfish and incompetent. I am willing to bet that those lawyers are personal friend of board members and somehow the payment is reciprocal. Making each board member rich. RA needs to be transparent and there should be a resident ethics committee investigating them. And it’s stupid in this day and age to print that magazine. If the advertising profit doesn’t cover the printing and distribution cost, it should only be available online. They are so stupid and corrupt!

      • Thomas Day

        Then vote them out. That’s how this works.

        • Road Apples

          Thank you for stepping up your game.
          Now that is a logical statement: Board Members are indeed elected and that is how it works.
          But are the CEO,CDPRC,CFO and DOC elected?

    • novatom

      “RA spends approx $120,000.00 for a glossy quarterly RA magazine. They print approx 85,000 copies & mail out approx 70,000. Does it have to be a glossy magazine? Do we really need to print 85,000 copies & mail out 70,000 copies.”

      Huh? If Reston is not breaking even or making a profit on the glossy magazine, then they should stop publishing it. There is no other reason to publish a magazine with ads unless it can financially stand on its own
      .

    • Reston Realist

      Wait a minute! I thought there wouldn’t be ANY RA fee increases because of the Tetra purchase–and rarely have RA increases exceeded 5% to cover inflation and growing wear & tear.

      Why are we looking at these double-digit assessment fee increases?

      • MJay

        I’m sure the RA board and CEO will explain that our upcoming larger-than-expected dues increases are not because of Tetra, but something else. Like the Tetra purchase itself, whatever the board/CEO comes up with won’t make much sense upon cursory review, but boy will they keep saying it until it’s true.

  • MJay

    Just remember that every single RA board member not only supported the CEO’s debacle money pit known as Tetra, but they also signed off on the rose-colored skewed/biased information that went out to the RA members during the referendum. While I don’t necessarily disagree with changing the pool times and/or closing the least-used pools to save our money, stories like this will become more frequent and the Tetra debacle more pronounced as we realize how completely hamhanded our RA board and CEO really were.

    • Reston Realist

      That money pit was even more RA Prez Ken Knueven’s idea for his buddies on Lake Newport, just to set this disgusting record straight.

      • CE

        He wasn’t the only board member to vote for it.

        • Reston Realist

          He was the one who initiated the idea and, with Fulkerson, sold it to the Board and community in a highly dubious manner.

          • Virginia Harlow

            I didn’t follow that closely. Was it a case of “manufactured concensus?”It’s so easy to pack meetings with those who are for something, and then, not allow opposing views to be heard for some trumped up reason.

          • cRAzy

            The process was extremely tightly controlled by Kneuven and Fulkerson, including giving some potentially critical Board members (Muir, Shannon, etc) access to tightly spun critical information only at the very last moment and/or in executive session so they could not discuss it rationally and publicly.
            You can thank the attorneys (paid more than 1/2 million dollars last year) for that.
            If you were not on the team, you didn’t even get to see the plan. And the Reston public didn’t get to see anything.

          • Greg

            What does Komrade Ken Plum have to say about this? This is transparency? This is fiduciary responsibility? This is service to and benefits the poor people? This is what the letter and the spirit of the revised POA act demand? This is the costly CICB Board and its ombudsman in action? There ought to be a better way / law, Komrade Ken Plum!

  • MAD MAD MAD at RA

    WTF RA?!
    Pools is what Reston is about. You incur debt for that POS Tetra building so that the Lake Newport richies can keep up their home values, but you are closing pools that serve underserved communities?!

    This is total BS.

    • Ready to call RestonNow quits

      @karengoff:disqus When are you going to finally shut down the comments section?

      • Ming the Merciless

        Why do you hate freedom?

        Don’t read the comments section if you don’t like them.

        I am sure they know that comments = clicks = money, so they would be ill-advised to shut them down.

        • Troll troller

          There is no 1st amendment right to comment on a private website. This comments section is a troll-filled craphole, and you Ming are one of its ringleaders.

          • Ming the Merciless

            I didn’t assert it was a right. The website allows us this freedom but we are not entitled to it. If they eliminate that freedom, as they have a perfect right to do if they wish, they will eliminate any reason to visit the site.

            I know very well that people like you hate freedom of thought and expression and strive to suppress them. But one way or another, the truth always comes out.

          • Ming Troller

            Yes the truth like the fact that Reardon, and many other trolls on this site are racists.

          • Ming the Merciless

            A term whose only meaning is “someone who tell truths you find politically disagreeable”. You only use the term to shut down debate. Such efforts will fail.

          • Karen Goff

            Wrong again. Here are the terms of service. Learn them, live them, know them https://www.arlnow.com/about/terms-of-use-privacy-policy/

          • Ming the Merciless

            I do obey the TOS. Always, without exception.

            Your often-exercised ability to delete truths you find objectionable does not make me “wrong” and you “right”.

          • Mike M

            I missed the racism. Perhaps you can point it out for me?

          • Thomas Day

            So you only visit sites where you can post inane confrontational comments? How old are you? 12?

          • Ming the Merciless

            You’re at the bottom, here, Tom. Try harder.

        • Karen Goff

          That’s not necessarily true, Ming. We do not work on a per-click basis here. The comments are supposed to be a civil place for people to discuss the news. Unfortunately it spins out of control often. But no, we are not going to shut the comments down.

          • Ming the Merciless

            If the amount the site can charge for advertising is not in any way connected to the site’s popularity, that would be… unusual.

          • Karen Goff

            Of course it is connected to a site’s popularity. Counted in UNIQUE VISITORS. Not in clicks. When person returns over and over again to make comments, it doesn’t boost the bottom line.

          • Reston Realist

            What? No extra points for Ming the Mouthiest?

      • CE

        You must ‘work’ at the RA. I use the term work very loosely.

      • meh

        you must be part of RA leadership, here is a message for you. Sell Tetra, keep the pools open.

      • Karen Goff

        I am not going to shut it down. I am going to kill a lot of comments. Unfortunately, right now people are just speaking their minds and not violating the rules. Trust me, you should see what does not get on the site.

        • Goff Troller

          The above comment by Reardon doesn’t violate your rules?

      • Mike M

        You seem to want to censor everyone with whom you don’t agree. Do you really feel pain when you read these comments? Then don’t. Why must you try to silence people by proxy?

    • novatom

      Actually the walking paths is what Reston is about. I bet they get a lot more use than the pools.

      • Greg

        They do, they are open 365 days a year and require a small fraction of the maintenance of the costly underused pools.

        • Farmerz Son

          Wrong, the pools are over run by people that allow children to ‘mess up’ ‘the pools (see the closures the last several years) without revoking their privileges. Revoke the ‘pooper parents’ and I bet things change. The pools can easily be staffed and or cleaned by volunteers and not over-paid college kids looking for a padding. Minimum wage is all that is deserved, period. If you want to up the minimum wage, then so be it.

      • Farmerz Son

        and interestingly, the paths is where almost all the pedestrian crime has occurred the last several years. Here’s a thought…light the paths, close the tennis courts or make them ‘coin operated’ for lighting. Now the issue is, RA doesn’t think logically. Poor RA, dumb people being paid by an intellectual citizen population. Sad sad sad. Good luck RA, as the citizens get fed up and go elsewhere.

  • Reston Realist

    A suggestion: Freeze all RA employees’ salaries until the debt on Tetra is paid off. And cut the salaries of the CEO, CFO, and office directors by 20% over the same timeframe.

    Maybe next time, they’ll take a more serious look at the “investments” they force us to make.

    • CE

      How can we make this happen?

    • annoyed reston resident

      Well said

  • annoyed reston resident

    I am surprised no one has mentioned the cost of the tennis program. Seeing as the CEO comes from the tennis program we will never see any cuts in that “country club” program. It costs RA over $800,000 a year to staff and maintain the tennis courts.
    And how many people does it serve? My guess is a few hundred at most, and many of these do not even live in Reston.
    Those who voted for the awful Tertra purchase deserve to get their pools closed but unfortunately its the lower income area pools that are slated for closure.

    • Greg

      Shadowood is the lowest of the lower-income areas and the Shadowood pool gets the least usage. It was that way a decade ago when the costly consultant report then recommended closing it. It was that way 40 years ago when the pool and Shadowood opened. Despite an expensive facility renovation some years ago, it’s quite clear that the 2500 or so low-income people living in Shadowood dont want to swim.

  • Wings!!

    A lot of good points being made in the comments section here. But I think we all can agree that Reston needs a Hooters.

    #HootersForReston

  • David

    That’s a lot of closures to save only $24,000 out of $1.6 million. Put in a bunch of fancy drink and snack machines with stuff people want to buy at all the pools, and perhaps that would raise $24,000 and we could keep the pools open and still have the $24K. And if closing a pool saves $60K tops, why is the total cost of the pools $1.6M? I don’t think we have 27 pools.

    • copeland shellon

      thank you grrreat point

  • JCSuperstar

    I think many of you missed the point in the article — the pools would not be used as a means of keeping assessments down.

    ” Board members said closing pools is a tough subject that is worthy of more discussion, but not as a means of keeping assessments down. They said it should be part of a future bigger discussion on facilities and long-range planning.”

    Reston’s demographics are, and will continue, to change. It only makes sense to make sure facilities and programs serve the community’s recreational needs. How many people here still need that old swing set or basketball hoop in their backyard?

    jc

    • cRAzy

      Glad to see you’re back, Ken, spinning the RA story.

  • Greg

    Shut down and fill in that Shadowood pool for good!

  • Greg

    Turn the closed pool areas into rental garden plots which are always in high demand, bring in revenue, have compost facilities and yield food in great abundance. What with climate change we may soon have a ten-month gardening season here in what is now a zone 7 gardening region.

  • east297

    Tetra backlash already!!!!!

  • Rational Reston

    RA should regularly look at what they are spending and if they could reduce the amount or spend it more wisely. Though they take the aspect that the people of Reston use most and threaten to cut that. As opposed to trimming other projects like the glossy magazine (which unfortunately is mandated by the bylaws, which no one struck out when they redid them several years ago when they eliminated the cap on assessments), or the amount of money that RA spends on tennis (which serves a minute number of Restonians).

    Not to be cynical, but could they taking the most public item available to create outrage? Then they can say they tried, but people said ‘No’?

  • Test

    Test

  • In Favor of Smaller RA Staff

    We need a serious discussion of RA budget priorities.

    Pools are central to Reston’s character as a community of healthy “villages.” They also employ neighborhood kids. And closing pools in our lowest income sections of Reston is lousy policy and really says something about Reston’s changing character.

    Long before closing pools and reducing hours, we should look hard at reducing RA administrative staff, staff salaries (have you seen the salaries!), “Taj Mahal” HQ facilities costs, and while we’re at it, we should sell Tetra.

    • Arielle in NoVA

      I agree with all but the last bit of this. I think Tetra should be owned and run by RA as a community resource or camp headquarters of some sort.

  • east297

    You are so right! Thanks for spelling it out.

  • thebratwurstking

    You also have the power of ONE and as far as I am concerned, you are using it wisely. Thank you!

  • thebratwurstking

    The pools in Reston are unique and a real asset of it. We have taken many visiting friends there and they all loved them.

    We also rented Lake Newport pool a few years ago and it was pretty sweet that alcohol was allowed to be consumed. Made for a great party. Future parties, perhaps as a unique business event are planned for next year.

    Looking at the numbers, savings are just minuscule compared to the overall budget. With the expected increase in residents over the next few years, it seems silly to consider closing any of them. Instead, hire a competent person to create more engaging programs, which could even be on a for pay basis, depending the event.

    Furthermore, market them (on of times) to local businesses to hold some corporate functions there. It’s the current lack of imagination that prevents the pool from being profitable. Any recreation and sports person, I happen to also be one of them, knows that pools and golf courses are usually the only profit making entities within any recreation department. Alas, apparently not in Reston…

    I also have no problem with highly compensated staff, as long as they are creating a profit, multiple their own salaries. At least that’s how it works in the private market.

  • Scott

    What does it take to kill the needless quarterly Reston Association magazine? Why is there a need for a hardcopy publication that I suspect most folks pay scant attention to in the first place? If you have to publish this thing, do it electronically. I think I saw the annual cost is $120K ? I’ll gladly give up my copy to see the pool schedules protected, or even better, a reduction in my ever increasing Reston Association fee.

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