New fee schedule based on individuals, not families; slide gets refurbished during closure

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - Dennis Fischer, the new facilities maintenance manager, also takes on the role of lifeguard at the Madras Aquatic Center. Because of the lifeguard shortage, the MAC will close Saturdays in October and may need to close morning swim sessions.

Dennis Fischer, facilities manager at the Madras Aquatic Center, just finished a three-week stretch working night and day getting the aquatic center ready for the next season, and now he's sitting in the lifeguard chair.

"They suckered me into it," says Fischer with a wink. He confesses he enjoys it. "Teach kids how to survive in the water, how to enjoy the water, keep them safe."

Fischer hired on in April as the first full-time facilities manager, but in the face of a life-guard shortage, he got certified and stepped into that role, too. Even MAC Executive Director Courtney Snead and Recreations Program Director Gregg Markwardt have gotten certified and are taking shifts a lifeguards.

The MAC needs three full-time, certified lifeguards to keep all the swim times open. They are currently closing on Saturdays in October and offering classes for certification. Without more lifeguards, the center may have to close morning swims.

"There's more responsibility to this job than whatever I believed before I qualified for it," says Fischer. "It's a very serious position because these are people's lives that could potentially be lost."

"He's the hardest worker on the planet," says Snead. "He's here night and day fixing stuff."

Hiring a full-time facilities manager indicates a new focus on preventative maintenance. Snead closed the pool for three weeks from Sept. 7-27, to deep clean.

"Most pools do it every year. We've never done it," says Snead. "We're going to be doing it every year from now on because there's so much preventative maintenance we can't do while people are in the pool."

Swimmers can't see the biggest investment that took place during the maintenance period. The MAC spent $25,000 to replace the controllers that automatically calibrate the pool chemicals.

"Our controllers broke about three months ago, and staff was doing it all manually," says Snead. She says these new controllers save six hours a day in staff time.

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - In third grade, Payton Kryla took swimming lessons at the Madras Aquatic Center when the pool first opened. Now she teaches swim lessons herself and runs the aquatics program for all ages.The MAC spent another $14,000 to replace the filter medium, something that's supposed to happen every three to five years but hasn't been changed since the pool opened.

Swimmers will notice the refurbished slide, no more bumps at the seams, and the deep cleaning of the locker rooms.

"We took all the locks off the lockers and found stuff from 2010," Snead says with raised eyebrows.

Eventually, with the help of grants and donors, the swim team will bring in new swim meet technology and a new score board.

Swimmers will also notice a substantial increase in user fees. The adult who used to pay $200 for an annual membership now pays $300. A family of two adults and two children who used to pay $367 a year will now pay $840 a year.

"It's a significant increase for a family," admits Snead, "and that's why we tried to create alternative options. The membership might work for one family and a punch card might work for another."

The MAC also offers scholarships to anyone on any kind of public assistance, and for those going through a temporary rough patch, Snead honors letters of hardship.

User fees pays 36% of the budget for the swim center.

"The new structure gives us some sustainability of our finances going forward," says Snead.

To illustrate the importance the MAC plays in the community, Snead points to her 23-year-old Aquatics Director Payton Kryla.

"Originally when I was small, about 5, we were taking swim lessons in Redmond," says Kryla. "I was part of the first third-grade class that got to take swimming lessons here when the pool was built."

Kryla started working for the MAC when she was in high school and now runs the aquatic programs for all ages.

"It's so good for people's health," says Kryla, "and that's what drives me is the building of the next generation who are going to be able to use this. They're going to be able to learn how to swim or be able to continue their everyday lives when they use it for aquatic therapy."

Once a student, now Kryla herself teaches children how to swim.

"Who wants to be a great swimmer?" she yells.

An enthusiastic chorus of 12 fourth and fifth grade voices reverberates across the water and around the cement walls.

"I do!"

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