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Borough workers to get free pool use?


Should Haines Borough employees receive free passes for unlimited use of the pool?

Interim manager Julie Cozzi and executive assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck thought so, and recently implemented a policy granting free use of the pool to all 70-80 borough employees.

The Haines Borough Assembly, however, is postponing the decision to take a closer look.

In an interview Monday, Culbeck said the program had already been put into effect and Cozzi confirmed she endorsed and approved it.

At its Tuesday meeting, the assembly voted unanimously to postpone the program and refer it to the Personnel Committee for investigation. The item was not on the agenda, but assembly member Debra Schnabel raised the issue during Cozzi’s manager report, asking if staff had the right to give free access to a public facility to a certain segment of the population without assembly approval.

Assembly member Campbell followed Schnabel’s line of thinking and said he wanted more input on the program rather than having it pushed through by staff without community knowledge, which could result in residents “screaming down the phone lines at us.”

Campbell also said he was concerned the program was implemented without assembly approval, which should be required as it is a major policy decision, he said.

An annual pool pass costs an adult $400, making the value of the free passes for borough employees between $28,000 and $32,000.

Culbeck spearheaded the free pass idea but said he would continue to pay for his own pool use.

He said the proposal would increase pool income and lower borough health care costs. Employees taking advantage of the pass would likely be inclined to bring members of their family, who would be paying pool customers, he said.

When Culbeck floated the idea among borough employees, another benefit emerged, he said.

“They saw it as a wellness component and, really, that was even a bigger argument: if borough employees go to the pool and are healthier because of it, then healthy employees take fewer sick days, are more productive at work, and have less medical costs,” Culbeck said.

Cozzi echoed the argument, saying the program would be good for taxpayers in the long-term through increased wellness and health of borough employees. “The cost of health insurance for the employees is huge, and anything we can do to encourage wellness will pay off for the taxpayer,” she said.

Giving the passes away also wouldn’t result in an increase in expenses for the borough, as costs at the pool – staffing, lighting, heating – are largely fixed regardless of the number of users, Culbeck said.

Pool manager RaeAnn Galasso said she wasn’t consulted about the program.

“It was an administrative decision and as far as getting the community to use the pool, that is great, but honestly the community pays taxes for the pool and in the perfect world the pool would be free to the community, as well,” Galasso said.

In an interview Tuesday evening, Culbeck said the sign-up sheet for borough employees at the pool would be taken down pending a future decision by the assembly on the pass program. Culbeck said he would also inform department heads the program would not currently be available.

At the end of the meeting, Culbeck told the assembly he stood behind the free pass plan but apologized for maybe not going about it in the best way and bypassing assembly consideration.