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Middletown Swim Club Could Close for 2012 Season

Ordinance introduced to authorize sale of the club called safeguard by Middletown officials.

The sale of the is not inevitable, but it will still not open under township management this summer.

Middletown officials introduced an ordinance at Tuesday’s authorizing the sale of the township-owned club, though Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante said the municipality is continuing to explore all options.

“Selling the property is our absolute last resort,” Mercantante told the audience. “We have lots of interest from people on the property. Some are interested in buying it. Some are interested in operating it. We are meeting with people every day. If we are able to save it, we will. But stopping this ordinance is not a good idea, because we don’t have to act on it. We can reject all bids (for the sale). It’s just better to pass the ordinance .”

The process to put a public property up for auction is lengthy, he added, so the township needs to be prepared “just in case.”

Mayor Tony Fiore also reiterated that the introduced ordinance stipulates that any sale would be deed restricted, permitting only recreational use on the site. He called the restriction a win-win for the township as a whole.

Residents were still riled, though, and not comforted by the officials’ contention that the club’s sale is not yet inevitable.

Those who spoke during the public portion pushed to keep the club open this summer at least. Middletown resident Tracy Lewis said it made no sense for the township to continue to pay capital debt service on the club while not taking in membership fee revenue to offset it. The debt service is $265,000 a year. The club operated at a loss of $101,000 last year.

Lewis said that after , she and a group of people had devised a plan that she said would bring in an added $92,000 in receipts.  

Her plan called for charging fees for swim and tennis instruction, renting the concession stand for a higher amount and increasing cabana fees by $200.

Mercantante said the plan was not feasible because when fees were hiked before, membership went down. He added that there is no way to predict the desired outcome of maintaining high enough membership numbers.

“We had this discussion last year and did modify costs of certain things, but fewer people signed up,” Mercantante said.

In addition, opening the club, under township reign, for the summer while saying there’s a chance it will be sold is creating a potentially false impression, he said.

“People say it is part of their lifestyle,” Mercantante explained. “(If we open) people have to have an expectation that it’s going to be here next year.” That cannot be guaranteed, he said.

Township Attorney Brian Nelson added that keeping the club open “one more year” would be like paying the minimum on a credit card and would only push the township further into debt.

Keeping the club open is tantamount to placing an unfair burden on taxpayers, who are footing the bill for the capital improvements, when most are not even members, Fiore said.

 “You’re throwing out the baby with the bath water,” resident John Russoniello said. “With our business plan, (opening the club this year) viable, responsible and doable.”

Fiore countered that the residents’ plan is not “doable” because it does not take into account the cost of dire capital improvements that would have to be addressed should the club open.

“Without capital expenditures included it’s (your plan) not doable,” Fiore said. “I’m a financial guy. If I thought this was feasible, it would be done. It’s unfortunate. Our losses will be borne by everyone in the township, not just the members of the club.”

john frunzi February 23, 2012 at 12:07 PM
We have to save the club that has been a part of our town for so long. It's not always dollars and cents. We lost Middletown day due to supposed money problems, now our town swim club? Something is wrong . If overdevelopment continues, our town clubs, our town day, continue to go astray, then I think we as residents need to think more serious next time we vote. Maybe a change at the helm is what is needed to make our voices heard.
john frunzi February 23, 2012 at 12:09 PM
First Middletown Day, now Middletown Swim Club. Why not just dissolve our town all together and link up to Red Bank? We as residents need to remember events like this when we go to the voting booth. Maybe the answer is a sweeping change in the governing of our town, a group that hears our voices and concerns and acts on them.
rob February 23, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Who cares. It's way to expensive for the condtion it's in. Hazlet is better and alot cheaper. Hazlet is 105.00 for out of town residents. And you don't have to pay for the lounge chairs. They have fireworks.
Lucy February 23, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I will remember at the "voting booth" that a fiscally responsible decision was made for the good of the entire town...
john frunzi February 23, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Congratulations, your in the minority, which is good, means our town still has a chance to survive come election time..
07748 February 23, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Another failed attempt by politicians who think government should be a business. They also purchased Chris' Marina in River Plaza several years ago, I'm sure that will at some point become another financial disaster they got us into. Red Bank was smart, they let a private owner buy the Armory and run a successful ice rink business. Maybe our GOP should take a lesson from the RB democrats. Yes, remember at the polls that our GOP has created this and other financial boondoggles for the taxpayers.
swimmer February 23, 2012 at 05:33 PM
People the swim club is dead, the Grand Pooba of the Grand Dutchy of Lincroft and his loyal court of bobbleheads want it to go away and it will now go away. So to be sold to a developer.
john frunzi February 23, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Well I can tell u 07748, and swimmer, for the first time since i am of legal age to vote, I am most likely voting democrat next election. It bothers me greatly as I have always been a loyal, Republican / Conservative type voter.
Colleen Muldowney February 26, 2012 at 06:36 PM
To quote Suze Orman of CNBC," People first, then money, then things." Although I am now a senior citizen, I can remember fondly my pool club days when it was a privately owned club with only one pool. A township as large as Middletown should have a place for families to go in the summer. Swimming and tennis are great ways to exercise and make friends. Hazlet and Holmdel pool clubs have family rates, not per person rates. Why not try offering a family rate in Middletown and make it more affordable?
john frunzi February 26, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Very Much agree Ms Muldowney. Middletown always put people first, as far back as I can remember, when visiting. Family rates, and conduct a open lottery every year for all of the cabannas, not where the same family has it year after year, because that discourages people from joining..every cabanna becomes available after the summer and is up for lottery, so everyone has a chance to rent one for the summer.

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