The largest Burke Centre Board of Trustees meeting turnout in months was not because community members couldn’t wait to meet the candidates in the upcoming election, it was because they wanted to hear the board's decision on the extra pool time requested by the Burke Centre Swim Club.
The request led to controversy at the Thursday, Feb. 8, meeting in Burke Centre. Some residents complained that their pool time is being infringed upon and that the swim club adds a lot of extra noise to the neighborhood, while swim club members believe they are entitled to the extra time and that it won’t negatively affect residents.
In the end, the board approved the request after making a few adjustments.
“I want the board to realize that the swim club is an attraction for a lot of people,” said Coulter Weaver, the Burke Centre Penguins swim coach and a teacher at Robinson Secondary School. “It really is about the kids and how do we best serve them.”
The 20-year-old Burke Centre Swim Club is one of Burke Centre’s largest and most active charter organizations. According to a Burke Centre Conservancy letter mailed to all of Burke Centre’s residents on Thursday, Jan. 18, the club had 296 members in 2006, 162 of which were Burke Centre residents.
The club originally requested to extend its pool time by 30 minutes at the Landings and Ponds pools for a 33-day stretch, between June 19 and Aug. 5. The club requested to retain the same start time, 7:30 a.m., from years past, meaning the extra requested time would eat into the public’s use of the pools. Some residents said the board is ignoring the needs of the 2,500 other families who have pool memberships in order to appease the swimmers.
“Our community is located right next to the pool,” said Lisa Robinson, manager of Burke Centre Station Commons. “Not only do we have to have the noise level —the starter pistols, the megaphones and the kids screaming — but we have limited use of the pool.”
Luanne Smith, a resident and former Burke Center trustee, said the accommodation is too much, especially because only half of the swimmers are assessment-paying residents. Smith said the more popular pools should have earlier opening hours for the public, not later.
BUT THE SWIM CLUB cites its growing membership as the main reason it needs extra pool time.
"The swim club should limit its number of members," said Smith.
Elaine Ferris, the mother of three young children, said her children are ready for a snack and a nap by the time they’re allowed into the pool, so the later end time is unreasonable for mothers with young children, she said. Jimi Grande said the board needs to look at all of the feedback it has received before making any drastic changes.
“There are two groups we’ve learned a lot about: moms with little ones and residents in the Commons,” said Grande, the Landings trustee. “We should study patterns this year and make adjustments next year.”
As for the swim club’s request for additional pool time on three Fridays in June at the Commons pool, Grande and most of the other board members agreed it would be irresponsible to grant the extra day until a study of pool usage is complete after this season. The board amended the motion and excluded the three Fridays requested.
If the board approves extra time at the Commons pool in the future, it will have had a snowball effect on the already crowded Landings and Ponds pools, said Smith. The Commons pool was built because the neighbors wanted it there, so making them go to other pools during practice time is a burden they shouldn't have to face, she said.
"Next year, they need to really look at how this affects the members of Burke Centre who pay the assessments versus the people who don’t necessarily live in Burke Centre, but are members of the charter,” said Robinson.
Swim club members said they believe the club does its share of work with the community, from volunteering at Conservancy-sponsored events to fund raising for other Burke Centre organizations. The Conservancy staff and Board of Trustees agreed to look closely at pool use this season, along with other options such as extending pool hours later into the evening.
"We want to work together for a reasonable solution," said JoEllen Osiecki, president of the Burke Centre Swim Club.