Mayor, city respond to swim club complaint

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The swimming fee may remain an issue. Last week, the Sun published a Letter to the Editor from Rosemary Bach criticizing Seal Beach officials for their lack of response to the Seal Beach Swim Club’s objections to a recent fee increase for using McGaugh pool.

The council recently approved rent increases for both the Seal Beach Swim Club and the Shore Aquatics Swim Club.

Bach also criticized officials for not responding to the letter, a copy of which she recently sent to the Sun.  (See “Losing trust in city government,” published in the July 7 edition and available at sunnews.org.) The email was sent to all five council members, the city manager, and the Sun Newspapers.

The Sun emailed requests for comment to council members Mike Varipapa (Bach’s representative) and Joe Kalmick. Kalmick came to the Sun office. Varipapa did not reply.

Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos emailed replies to some of the Sun’s questions to District Three Councilman Varipapa.

“For my part, all of this has happened after the fact,” said District One Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick in a recent interview.

He argued that the city hadn’t raised fees to the needed levels for nine years.

Kalmick said the city was trying to recover costs, in some cases 50% and in some cases 90%. (The council is expected to look at service fees. He said he was concerned about how the city’s decision to raise the rent on the swimming pool will impact the fee that the Swim Club will charge its members.

“Where do you raise revenues—by taxes or fees,” Kalmick said. “That’s the only way to raise revenue I know of.”

“The fact is that there are other swim groups that would readily take over their hours,” Kalmick said.

Kalmick said there wasn’t anything in recent emails that gave him new information that would change his mind about the swimming pool rental fees.

According to Kalmick, the alternative to raising revenue would be to cut programs, such as pool hours.

Kalmick also said that as mayor he has no authority to overrule a council decision. (According to the city website, the mayor runs the council meetings and represents Seal Beach “throughout the region.”)

He said that if the pool fee decision were reversed, every other organization that might want to use the pool would be entitled to the same consideration.

The Sun asked both Kalmick and Varipapa if they felt the city had been fair to the Seal Beach Swim Club.

On July 6, Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos wrote: “The City has many stakeholders in our community, including residents, businesses, and visitors, all with varying goals, objectives, and needs, and we therefore take  a comprehensive and equitable approach to evaluating and recommending new fees, which is done every year as part of the budget review process.  The City has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that fees are evaluated on a regular basis, and that those fees are the result of studying increasing costs to operate City programs, facilities, and services, including utilities, staffing, regular and deferred maintenance, as well as comparable fees for similar type uses in our geographic area.”

The Sun asked the council members: “Are you concerned that she says she is losing trust in her city government?”

Gallegos wrote:

“The City goes through great lengths to be transparent and to collaborate with residents and businesses to formulate the City’s goals and objectives each fiscal year.  And with varying degrees of perspectives and objectives in any community, it’s inevitable that not everyone will agree with any decision that is made.  But we do our best to obtain feedback from members of the public through our annual budget workshops and strategic planning sessions, which are open to the public.

“We also engage the public at citywide events where City staff hosts a pop-up tent to obtain feedback about projects and disseminate information that might be helpful to residents and businesses.  Moreover, we utilize the City’s website and social media platforms to connect with residents and businesses.

“Lastly, residents have the ability to acquire public documents as part of a Public Records Act request should they want to learn more about a subject matter they are interested in. They may simply visit the City Clerk’s office and make the document request by completing a request form or if they are unable to visit City Hall they may visit the City’s website at www.sealbeachca.gov and complete the form online.  The City provides all of these opportunities of engagement (and more) to build relationships with the community, which is the cornerstone to fostering trust.”

Mayor, city respond to swim club complaint