Thoughts on Burgess Pool? Menlo Park, posted by Sean Howell, Almanac staff writer, on Sep 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm Sean Howell is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Burgess Pool users: How do you like swimming at Burgess Pool? Do you like the programs offered? Do you think the rates are fair? Are you satisfied with the way the new pool has been run since 2006, under the direction of Menlo Swim and Sport? E-mail Almanac reporter Sean Howell and let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to provide contact information.
Posted by happy!, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 8, 2009 at 5:49 pm
I use the pool every day. It is professionally run, clean, and the staff is friendly. There is something for everyone on every skill level, from infants to the elderly.
Last winter, they put a bubble over the pool to give a warm, weatherproof place for clients that need the warm water to aid their rehab, keep the aquacizers warm, and last but not least,a warm place for kids to be able to continue taking swim lessons.
I know there has been controversy, but I have to say that I remember when the pool was run by the city. It was horrible! The staff was unfriendly and the place was dirty. The programs were unorganized. I hesitated to come back to the pool because of my experience.
Tim and Lisa Sheeper are gems. It's because of them this pool has turned around. The community is truly blessed to have them to take such good care of this facility and all who come through it's doors.
Posted by Lovin It, a resident of another community, on Sep 8, 2009 at 8:48 pm
We love the pool. We currently live in Palo Alto, having recently moved from Menlo Park and we still use Burgess Pool. The swim classes for kids are the best in the Peninsula. The program is run by Shanni Hendler and is simply outstanding. The instructors are patient and positive, and strict. No, that isn't a contradiction. In order to advance in swim levels, they have a very strict and professional criterea that have to be met. Their classes are fun, instructive, and flat out wonderful. The pool is clean, well run, and we are fortunate to have this gem, run by the Sheepers with an outstanding school supervised by Ms. Hendler.
Posted by Reality Check, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 8, 2009 at 11:27 pm
"It's because of them (the Sheepers) this pool has turned around."
Not exactly there, bud - it turned around because MP taxpayers put millions of dollars into a brand new pool complex that replaced the small, old community pool that we had before.
A monkey could have "turned it around" with that kind of advantage handed to them.
What I'd like to know - and the City Council should demand - is just how much money Sheeper is raking in on the taxpayers dime! It's time to make them open their books to the public if they want to continue to use a city-owned facility rent-free! What a disgrace!
Posted by Mom of two young swimmers, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 6:47 am
Our only complaint is there is alway so little space for open swim and with many people are packed in small areas. Sometimes, 1/2 of the pool is blocked off and only 1-2 people are using the area while 50 people are packed in the other small area for open swim. At one point, on a very warm day, all of us had to leave for the baby pool while some swim activity was open for 2 hours. However, there were only a few people in the pool while many, many others were crowded in other small areas. In summary, it just seems like the money making activities dominate the major parts of the pools most the the time while the open swim areas are given very little space. I am curious too to see their financials. Maybe it is fine and this is what they need to keep the pool well run. On the other hand, if there is a huge profit, then perhaps some small adjustments should be made.
Posted by D, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 8:36 am
I've just recently begun using the pool, in the Aqua Fit program. This is a fantastic program! It is 5 weekday mornings and 2 evenings. For a very reasonable cost I can attend 7 classes per week. The choice is mine. It is a very popular program and is well attended. I've never met the Sheepers and I really don't care how much profit is made. We must always consider their overhead, employee cost, insurance, etc. As an employer, I know how expensive it is to run a business. This program meets my needs and I can get on with my life.
Posted by taxpayer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 9:25 am
Pretty unsurprising that a topic like this brings out the Sheeper groupies, and no doubt that he is offering a people-pleasing program. D would be correct about not caring "how much profit is made" -- if the pool were a private operation. It's not. It's owned by us, the taxpayers, who are still paying for it on our property taxes, and it was given to Tim Sheeper free of charge.
Mom's post corroborates comments I've heard from others (and may also explain the fanaticism of some Sheeper supporters). If you are in one of the high profit programs, you get deluxe treatment. If you're just one of the hoi polloi, you'll get squeezed into a tiny space. My kids no longer want to go to recreational swim because they don't like being roped into a corner of the pool while most of the facility is empty. Therein lies one of the problems with a for-profit facility that has no public oversight.
Reality Check -- well said.
Those of you who love the program, I am happy for you, but can you understand how unfair it is that the rest of us are subsidizing you? There are many recreational programs in Menlo Park that use public facilities; Tim Sheeper is the only user who pays no rent! When the current lease expires, there should be a competitive bidding process that results in the city receiving a fair rent for the beautiful facility that we, the taxpayers, built.
Posted by Swimmer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 12:11 pm
>Tim Sheeper is the only user who pays no rent! When the current lease expires, there should be a competitive bidding process that results in the city receiving a fair rent for the beautiful facility that we, the taxpayers, built.
Actually, the MA Cooperative Nursery School also pays no rent to the City. While it's true that Sheeper runs a very good program for competitive swimmers, it's shameful that the City is not charging rent or getting a cut of the profits, especially when Sheeper gets to collect rent and keep 100% of the profit from other groups using the pool, runnig a summer camp, a snack bar, a sports shop and offices for his programs - ALL RENT FREE. At a time when the City is cutting back on services, those responsible for the sweetheart deal with Sheeper need to be held accountable for not putting the pool services out to bid, and splitting the profits like they do with most contracted programs. When the rent free contract is up, it's time that Sheeper be asked to fork over some cash to the City if he wants to continue to run the swimming pool and related programs at Burgess.
Posted by not using, a resident of the Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 12:52 pm
Hear Hear! to Swimmer and the rest who rightly point out the ridiculous situation of our city supporting a private swim business. Last time I checked I found the senior rates expensive enough for me to not consider using the pool. It is cheaper for me to go to Rinconada pool.
Posted by tax payer/resident, a member of the Laurel School community, on Sep 9, 2009 at 1:06 pm
We use the pool infrequently because classes are given preferential treatment. Either we're squeezed into a small area of the pool for free swim or, as was the case a couple of weeks ago, due to classes, the kids had to free swim in a lane of the lap pool...too deep and too cold for young kids. A bunch of grade school kids ended up in the tot pool....and they are *way* too old, too big and too rowdy for the tot pool! The life guard was at them constantly. It's a lot to pay to have free swimmers squeezed out.
When you bring these issues up to Lisa, she becomes defensive and condescendingly explains how the rest of the communities needs have to be met as well (meaning the paid swimming classes). I asked her to try and listen without being defensive. She just yes'ed me to death.
If you're not enrolled in a class, cha-ching, you don't count.
Regarding the dressing/bath/bathing area...The changing area is too small. The bathrooms are always dirty and smelly. When we do swim there, my child asks to change in the car and shower at home.
We drive to Palo Alto to avoid this. :(
It definitely feels like a coin-operated situation.
I'd much rather feel welcomed and comfortable in my neighborhood pool than drive to Palo Alto. Particularly since my tax dollars help to fund it.
Posted by menlo park resident, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 1:14 pm
I use the pool fairly often. The staff is friendly and the facility is open on time. My only comment is that sometimes the instructional pool appears to be dirty (hair and other debris floating in the water) and the water is salty/briny. I wonder whether there is enough chlorine in the water and/or if the filter is working correctly?
Posted by Amy Stewertson, a resident of the Menlo Park: University Heights neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm
The whole swim center is only interested in making money. Especially the swim school. They tend to teach very little so your children continue to take lessons. My son last year(age 4) reached the freestyle level at the begining of the summer. They taught him the same thing every lesson until fall. We stopped for the winter and returned for spring lessons and he was placed in a Freestlye minus class. We continued for a few weeks and stopped going because of the lack of progress from the instructor and we were upset that the director put him in a level below his previous level. We joined a private swim club(Ladera Oaks)where our son made the swim team and even competed in swim meets(Age 5). He is now also swimming back stroke & butterfly. We are very disappointed that we wasted our time & money.
Posted by E. Moritz, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 1:31 pm
Thanks for providing the opportunity to citizens to weight in on one of the great services provided by Menlo Park. I am a swimmer (high school and college) so I am biased towards the sport. I used the "old" facility often when I first moved to Menlo Park in 1979. It was very nice. My job took me to Michigan in 1998. After nine years there I returned in January of "08. The new swimming facility blew me away. Kudos to the city (Council and administration) who replaced the old facility with the new one. The number of people I see using it shows they clearly understood the people of Menlo Park like to swim. The only improvement I'd like to see would be more room in the locker room. It gets very crowded during high swim hours, but I can live with it.
As to the programs and how they are run..... The facilities are kept clean and tidy. There is swim equipment for lap swimmers and plenty of lanes. While I have been lap swimming I've been impressed with the number of programs that address all age groups. Senior exercise programs as well as beginner classes for small children seem to keep the pool full and active all the time. I don't remember any of these programs or the intensity of the programs in the "old" days. This summer I attended one of the swim meets for the kids' swim team. What a hoot! The kids were having a great time. There were smiles all around with lots of great exercise for a generation that could have been at home playing video games. I was also impressed with the "diversity" of the group of kids who were all having fun together. I ran swim meets that size when I was a young man. It's a real challenge to keep that many people organized. I was very impressed with the level of organization. The meet officials (mostly volunteers) were well briefed, the team leaders got all their swimmers on the blocks on time and the whole event was very well run.
How do I like the price? Access to healthy exercise in good facilities that are well kept at the price charged at the Burgess Pool is very reasonable.
Some of the respondents seem to have not read your questions. I guess they did poorly in essay tests in school. But if their concerns about Mr. Sheeper not paying rent are true, then that can be addressed by the city (administration and Council) at the next bid interval. I assume there is a multi-year contract period to allow any bidder to set up management programs, work out costs schedules and make a profit. But setting up a depreciation schedule to meet expected capital replacement costs is not rocket science. I'd think it could be accomplished by the city without the emotion that seems to underly their their responses. It will mean that cost will have to be added to user fees, but that should still not make the user fees unreasonable. The point is, good management and use of the facility is what brings a proper return to the community.
Your questions asked HOW DO YOUR READERS WHO USE THE BURGESS POOL LIKE THE WAY THE POOL PROGRAMS ARE BEING RUN. Not, do you like the current management or should we change the current contract. As a use, a swimmer and a tax payer, I like the way Burgess Park is being run. A first class operation for a first class city.
Posted by Guppigirl, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm
I too, love to swim. My whole family loves to swim and we do take advantage of the swim programs offered. The masters program is top-notch and the lap swimming hours are very accomodating. My children took lessons with the swim school, but we stopped, mainly because I was not happy with the fact that they have no make-up policy. Kids being kids, they got sick a fair bit so I prefer a program that is more flexible with make-ups.
The dome is fantastic in the winter, especially for kids!
A tip to those wanting to do open swim, call the facility to find out in advance how much space will be available and if there are large groups scheduled. (Especially wise in the summer.)
I find that the facility is very clean in the morning but could definitely use some touch-up later in the day, especially during the busy summer months.
Overall, I'm very happy with the way Burgess Pool is being run.
Posted by Rick Schwartz, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm
Extremely happy. Well run and clean. Plenty of hours for lap swimming, always well-used but rarely too crowded. I'm a regular twice a week in the mornings. Also I used on Saturdays with Team in Training last summer. Happy with the $5 price per swim for residents. Personally I'd prefer not having the dome in the winter but I'm okay with having it if that makes the pool more used by others.
Posted by Marina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 3:49 pm
Had mixed experience with swim lessons. Beginner levels were great, but my daughter got so bored in the freestyle class this summer ("It's the same thing every time!") she got burned out and doesn't want to go back.
Floor in women's locker room is always slimy, but that's been the case in every pool locker room I've ever been in. I agree, the changing area is way too small.
Posted by Pam, a resident of the Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 7:09 pm
I've lived in MP for 45+ years-learned to swim at Burgess and used to work at the old Burgess Pool as a ten year old kid. We’d make friends with the girl lifeguards and they’d ‘let’ us issue mesh bags and safety pins with numbers on them to swimmers so they could leave their belongings behind the “cage”. Then we’d swim the rest of the day and when we heard the canned music approaching we’d leaning on the wired fence poking our dollar bills through to the ice cream man who’d pass back your big taffy strips and a missile popsicle. Kids ruled the pool. They still could except the adults are determined to screw it up-over think- over problem solve - over imagine, etc. I waited 45 minutes to use the free swim area because an office kid said it would ‘really’ be free swim in 45 minutes after the swim class was over. We were booted out within 5 minutes of the free swim because another class was collecting at water’s edge so adults could improve their strokes. The instructor pointed to a corner of the free swim pool that was teaming with toddlers and their handlers. We had specifically avoided that section of the pool because the water was cloudy and there were particles of crumbled diapers floating around – not kidding. Too many adults with stroke problems and I say LESS is MORE everybody so pull your heads out and give us back our free swim summers - use the lane pool for those adults that need to improve their strokes.
Posted by Greg Gaffney, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2009 at 7:59 pm
I love the facility and the Masters Program. I am in my 3rd year with Menlo and am 51 years old. I saw the benefits of swimming in my son at St Francis High School.
I took swim lessons as a kid at M-A in the 60's and only swam for fun. 3 years ago I could barely swim 4 laps without stopping, but heard it was ok to join Masters, so I did. I started in lane 6B and with the support and encouragement from Tim Sheeper and fellow swimmers, I am now in lane 4 and can swim competitively across lakes without a wetsuit! Its a great sport, I would encourage anyone to swim. There is no impact on the body, you stretch out long and use every muscle...and its refreshing! The program is excellent, the facility is clean and convenient and it is more than reasonably priced. The workout schedule is also convenient with times at morning, noon, and night! It is a great way to start your day.
The talk of taxes paying for it...what about all the parents that pay for private education when their tax dollars are already paying for public schools....give me a break! Stop Whining and SWIM! Leave it alone, it's GREAT!
Posted by Diana Jaye, a resident of the Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2009 at 8:52 am
Burgess Pools are fabulous. The senior resident rate is a bargain. I wish they could accommodate lap swimming on the weekends earlier than 10 a.m., which is way too late.
I doubt that a City pool administration could do as well as Tim Sheeper has. The pools and facilities are always clean, staff is congenial and supportive. I personally dislike the winter dome but understand it is there for the children.
Posted by Rob McCool, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2009 at 9:17 am
I've been teaching my son to swim at the pool. It's pretty good. The salt water chlorination system is definitely an improvement.
The problem I have is one others have reported. During the week, open swim is either very crowded into a single lane of the warm pool, or placed into the lap swim pool which is very very cold. I don't know the exact temperature but it feels like a polar bear swim some days.
I would rather have some space in the warm pool to swim. The needs of open swimmers, who are mostly parents with kids, are not the same as professional lap swimmers and we need warmer water.
Posted by Swimmer in MP, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2009 at 11:03 am
I grew up in Menlo Park and remember the old pool when I was a kid and as a masters swimmer. The new facility is beautiful, but the real differences are the programs. Aside from the usual open swim and lap swimming, Tim Sheeper is running the masters program with 4 workouts a day (Tues & Thurs), the Mavericks kids swim team, Camp Menlo kids summer camp, Team Sheeper triathalon team, watersize, swim lessons, underwater photography, masters swim meets and others I've missed. The store takes care of goggles, caps and suits at very reasonable prices. Don't forget the banners, bulliten boards and lobby decorations. The energy and creativity it takes to produce an environment like this is rare. The old City run pool was adequate, but dreary and uninspired, offering few programs. The old masters program was actually run by Tim, renting lane space.
Agreed that the locker rooms are too small, but city staff has refused to open the wall between lobby and the old locker rooms in the gym to ease the crowding. It only requires the installation of a door, but by refusing to help this 'private contractor'. This resistance has hurt the citizens of Menlo Park.
By most estimates, Tim Sheeper is saving the taxpayers $500,000 to $750,000 a year. For those calling for a competitive bid to run the place, I've got news for you - there are no other bidders.
The service employees international union wants Tim out to create union jobs. These are the same folks who had a 120 person sick out this week in Palo Alto. If Tim gets squeezed with rent increases or other nickel and dime charges and leaves, the aquatics center could end up looking like El Camino.
Posted by taxpayer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2009 at 12:49 pm
Oh, give it a rest. Most of us who are concerned about the pool's operation have nothing to do with the unions. I am quite happy to have Sheeper continue to operate it. However, he (or any other operator) should do so with city oversight, to ensure, for example, that there is adequate and appropriate space for recreational (ie low profit) swimmers. Those of us who want to bring our kids to play in the pool should not be considered second class citizens.
When other recreational groups -- including those that are nonprofit and charge no fees -- use city facilities, they pay rent. Kids' sports groups, such as Little League and soccer, pay rent for field use. Any operator of our city-owned pool should also pay rent.
Don't believe the "savings" -- numbers concocted by friends of Sheeper. Other local cities operate their pools at a profit, while offering plenty of recreational opportunities as well as swim lessons and masters' programs.
Posted by A regular, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm
Over the years I've been a regular at the Mtn View Pool (Eagle Park), Palo Alto's Rinconada, Stanford, and the old Menlo Park pool. The new Burgess pool experience is so far beyond any of those, we are very fortunate to have it.
I also have young kids who take lessons, and the classes at Burgess are top notch. Though I stick to lap swimming, I very much appreciate the vitality that comes from all the other programs. The old MP pool was dead, not enough critical mass to make it an active community gathering spot. Without active use, the facility and services cannot be sustained at such high quality.
Posted by Great Facility, a resident of the Menlo Park: Fair Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2009 at 9:12 pm
I have lived in 11 different communities since grad school, and of those communities most of them had swimming facilities. NONE of them as nice as Burgess. Yes, at times it's crowded, yes at times the changing facilities are inadequate, but Tim Sheeper has done a spectacular job. In addition, the guy is a world class athlete himself, and is a nationally ranked triathlete. For aspiring adults and kids, that want to do triathlons, marathons, swimming etc., Tim alone is the price of admission. Please, enough with the ridiculous talk about "Sheeper making too much money" or "Sheeper gets away rent free". I'm sure cooler heads will prevail and someone in the city will negotiate some type of rent from Tim. Just make sure that it makes sense for Tim to continue to run the facility WITHOUT union or city involvement. Please keep it privately run, there's an obvious difference, and it saved us over $500K, no matter how you look at it!
Posted by watching, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2009 at 9:34 pm
Great Facility, I am very happy that your experiences at the Burgess pool have been good. I've heard from others as well that Tim Sheeper runs a good program, and I'm fine with that. It might be a very good thing to continue his contract with the city when his current one expires, as long as the contract includes a fair cost to him to lease the facilities, and the public's interests are served.
But to mix your positive, personal experience up with the considerations that other posters have voiced on this thread is just not right. The benefits you derive from the for-profit programs that Mr. Sheeper offers have little to do with the concerns voiced by taxpayers about how the city, in effect, gave this $7 million taxpayer-funded facility over to a private operator, rent-free.
My big questions have to do with whether the city has given enough oversight to the operation of the pools to ensure that the public's interests have been served. Has Mr. Sheeper lived up to the parts of the contract that were placed there to provide the public with reasonable recreational programs, regardless of whether they can afford costs charged by a for-profit operator? That was supposed to be part of the deal. I don't know the answer to that question, but I've heard some people say that's not the case.
You talk about "aspiring adults and kids" who want to do trialthlons, marathons, etc, but this is a public recreational facility, paid for by the taxpayers. The programs are not supposed to be only for people who aspire to be athletic stars or serious contenders on the marathon scene. It's supposed to serve the public. Is it doing so? I hope there's some serious scrutiny going on, and that the answer to that question will be forthcoming before the next contract is put out to bid.
Posted by C. Kennedy, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2009 at 4:06 am
I swim between 6 and 8 a.m. in the lanes in the Instructional pool. I discovered the pool through a friend a year ago, and was overjoyed and amazed. The water is beautiful and heated to an easy to get into temperature. I am so grateful for this facility and the lane swimming available in the smaller and warmer pool in the early morning hours.
Posted by watching, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2009 at 8:10 am
You're absolutely right, Truth. There's not a shred of evidence that privatizing the pool's operation saved the city $500k. The council majority didn't even seek proposals from the staff on how a city-run program would be run cost-effectively, so how could anyone presume to know whether giving the pool over to a private party, especially rent free, would save the city anything? It's an absurd claim.
Posted by Get real people, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm
People... comparing team and leagues that rent MP fields and facilities to the pool is apples and oranges. When an entity rents field space, that entity is not in charge of maintaining the fields, etc. The current pool operator bears 100% of the operational costs. That is the "rent" people. And it is a significant sum, which is obviously why the City sought to remove the risk of losing money from its budget. My god, how narrow minded can these Sheeper critics be. If you have a problem with the programs or level of service he provides, that's fair game. But to blindly adhere to this "Sheeper is getting a free ride" rhetoric is ignorant as best.
Posted by Happy Swimmer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2009 at 3:16 pm
Obviously the pool is operated in an inspired way. Vitually everyone who actually uses it is happy, but some have been swayed by the negative arguments promoted mostly by the union (SEIU) who were the losers in the deal.'Get Real People' has it right- if the City wants to charge Tim rent, they have to pay for the heating, chemicals and maintenance (janitorial) of the facility. That cost would probably exceed the rent, especially if city workers are used. That means we, the people, will pay more.
Taxpayer - the deal with Tim has delivered more service to us for less. That should be the mission of the city council, but sadly they often represent the unions interest over ours.
The $750,000 operating figure was the City's estimate of the cost to operate the facilty before Tim was considered to run the pool.
What we, the citizens of Menlo Park, have with Tim Sheeper operating the Burgess Aquatics center is a win - win. Don't blow it.
Posted by taxpayer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2009 at 3:35 pm
It's not just that Sheeper isn't paying rent -- it's that because there is no city oversight, he isn't providing the kind of community service that a city pool should offer. And no, he is not covering the cost of the facility, just the operating costs. We, the taxpayers, are still paying off the loan for the pool.
Compare our situation, for example, to that of Los Altos, where the group similar to Sheeper's group has been charged with raising all the money for the new pool. The city is donating the land, and will have oversight over the new pool operation.
We don't know if Sheeper is saving us money or costing us the money that we could have made (and should be making) on pool operations. According to a study conducted by Menlo Park's own staff, many local cities are making a profit or breaking even on their swimming pools. The city council apparently never bothered to read the report before voting to give away the pool. Shameful.
Posted by Diana, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2009 at 3:39 pm
Happy Swimmer, The city came up with a loose figure of costs to the city at one point (I don't remember what it was, but I think your $750K figure is far too high), but when pressed to break the figure down, they couldn't. In other words, they couldn't support the figure that was thrown out there.
Also, whatever figure they came up with, was it the total cost before or after use fees were put into the equation? My recollection is that some members of the public (and maybe Fergussen and Cohen) wanted city staff to come up with possible fee scenarios, including one that would cover all costs to the city. The idea never got traction with the council majority, who were convinced from the beginning that the pool should be privatized, so why bother.
Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2009 at 11:13 am
Before the pool operation issue came up Lee Duboc had already demonstrated that she was acting in the best interests of the City when she became the swing vote to vote against the a 50-meter pool. Nicholas Jellins and Chuck Kinney were for it and Mickie Winkler and Paul Collacchi were against it. The extra construction costs plus the higher recurring costs caused Lee to vote against the 50-meter pool. For this fiscally prudent decision she was excoriated by many of her close friends who were members of Menlo Masters, a group run by Tim Sheeper.
When the operations contract for the now rebuilt Burgess Pool complex came up the City had no experienced personnel to operate the pool since they had either voluntarily left the City’s employ or were laid off during the pool’s 2-year reconstruction. Also, with the city facing projected budget deficits, the $500,000 per year recurring cost of the pool’s operation and programs was something that over 70% of the city’s residents who responded to the scientific poll, that was part of the “Your City/Your Decision” process, were willing to forego.
The City Council was actually discussing the possibility of NOT opening the new pool complex. Tim Sheeper, who was no friend of Lee’s, approached the City Council (during a public meeting) to see if they would be interested in having him operate the pool. His fees would come from the pools’ users and the City would have no financial exposure. Mr. Sheeper offered to cover ALL maintenance costs as well.
So, instead of operating the pool at a $500,000 loss, the city would have a well-run, fully operational aquatics program at ZERO cost to the City. The City Council instructed the city staff to run this proposal by the Parks and Recreation Commission, of which Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline were members. The Parks and Recreation Commission performed its due diligence and heard nothing but glowing accolades from people who were previously enrolled in other Tim Sheeper Programs. Then the Parks & Recreation Commission voted unanimously to recommend awarding the pool operation to Tim Sheeper on a four year trial basis.
Meanwhile the city staff attempted to find other pool operators to express interest in operating the pool. None came forward. That is why no RFP was issued. It is common practice in the Federal Government if there are no other interested qualified parties to have a directed procurement.
Also the pool only had a 1-year warranty. Any defects discovered outside the one year were not remediable. The City would have to absorb the cost of curing the defects discovered outside the 1-year warranty period. It was important to get this operation underway since there were no qualified city staff to operate the pool. The city was very fortunate to have Mr. Sheeper offer his services at this most urgent time.
Anyone who questions the quality of service at Burgess Pool only need to ask any of the swimmers. You will be hard pressed to find anyone, other than an SEIU member, who will say the pool was better operated by the City than by Tim Sheeper.
In 2011 the pool will come up for a renewal contract. The Cityshould hold a biddrs' conference. If there are other interested bidders an RFP should be issued. One Section M Evaluation Criteria for Federal Procurements is Past Performance. Since Tim Sheeper’s past performance has been a solid “Blue” other competitors would be at a disadvantage. When an incumbent has outstanding past performance the USG will often retain the incumbent even when other companies underbid him because Past Performance plays such an important role in the proposal evaluation process.
Posted by Ella, a resident of the Menlo Park: Stanford Hills neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Hank Lawrence speaks the truth. These SEIU employees and their supporters are bereft of reasoning. Tim Sheeper operates the pool; he does not own it. Do you think Stanford Hospital asks the operator of it's cafeteria to pay rent? Don't be ridiculous. Operators don't pay rent. They get paid for providing a service.
Posted by get real, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2009 at 2:36 pm
Yes, the insanity must stop. Do you believe that Stanford doesn't get a percentage of cafeteria sales? Find a better example. Sheeper is getting a free ride -- he even offered to pay and the city refused to take his money.
Posted by Get real people, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm
Dear Penny Weiss,
Your comment about the current pool operator being "willing and expecting to pay rent" is just the kind of misleading comment that influences and riles up those who don't have the time or interest to fully research issues. As I said earlier, and Mr. Lawrence elaborated on... No, Mr Sheeper does not pay rent, and he never offered to do so. What he did offer was to take the City from a negative (admittedly estimated since the City was not even expecting to be able to keeo the new pool open 12 months per year!) cashflow position on the pool to a break even point. IE, you the taxpayer would no longer lose money on the pool, though "you" would not make money either. And this is the agreement under which he currently operates. PLEASE don't spread mistruths. I hope you were simply under the wrong impression and not deliberately spreading falsities.
Again, if someone takes issue with the programtic setup at Burgess Pool, that's fair game. But for you to state that Mr. Sheeper offered rent and the City turned it down, and that as a result the taxpayer has gotten a raw deal, is just plain wrong.
Posted by Greg Gaffney, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 14, 2009 at 8:57 pm
....any union involvement would be a mistake! I know from family run business they and union reps have the interest of a few at heart and not the long-term interest of the people or the entity....nor the City! Tim Sheeper promotes healthly living and life style thru multi sport and welcomes anyone and everyone. I have been around sports and business my whole life...you won't find a more well rounded coach, business owner, AD, than Tim Sheeper; Menlo Park is lucky to have him.
Posted by Swimming now because of Burgess..., a resident of another community, on Sep 15, 2009 at 9:22 am
My 6 year daughter is now excited and happy to swim because of the swimming school at Burgess which provides *wonderful* swim classes in an 87 degree pool that she happily gets into (we failed with the "performance" temperatures pools). I am swimming now and healthier because I will get into the 87 degree pool as well. Also, there was a recent article (in about the last month) that talked about the quality or lack of quality/training in swim instructors at other pools. I think the issue was citing some instances in L.A. with out-of-work people being swim instructors and not properly trained. Also, I had never met Tim Sheeper until last week when when my daughter hurt herself within arms length of me and Tim handled her and the situation incredibly. Someone knowledgeable, capable and caring has high value. I will also say thank you to the person that says to call ahead. Open swim in the 87 degree pool is all that works when she is not in class. Finally, growing up we had a pool that did not get used during the fall through spring because it was not heated -- we lived in the land of snow falls. Well, my parents put in a heater and enclosed the pool. It was a fantastic experience and the pool got a lot of use. That was until the utilities bill came in the next month. $400 in about 1973. The pool and air heaters were turned off after that and it was back to summertime only. I am thrilled to have a heated pool in the area with excellent services. I cannot imagine how expensive it is to heat to 87 degrees and what it costs to get the bubble up and maintain. I am thankful for the Burgess pools and Menlo Swim that has excellent staff, programs and facilities.
Posted by Great Facility, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Sep 15, 2009 at 1:23 pm
I find it amazing that all of the pro-SEIU types cannot find it within themselves to admit defeat when there is an obvious defeat. The SEIU lost the pool opportunity, Tim Sheeper moved in and has done a fantastic job, we/taxpayer aren't being charged, end of story.
Why aren't you guys ranting and raving about THE overstaffing of our city government, the wasted spending, the depletion of our reserves, the inability to attract business to help with taxes, the vacant lots strewn about, etc.?
PLEASE LEAVE THIS ALONE, AND GO ON TO COMPLAIN ABOUT ALL OF THE OTHER STUFF YOU GUYS COMPLAIN ABOUT, AND HAVE HELPED MESS UP. LEAVE THE POOL ALONE,.....PLEASE.
Posted by Roger von Oech, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Sep 15, 2009 at 5:43 pm
I'm swim at Burgess Pool two-to-three times a week (both as a Masters swimmer and as a lap swimmer). The facility is clean, well-maintained, and a pleasure to be in.
Mr. Sheeper and his staff do a wonderful job of providing a whole host of swimming activities that give Burgess Pool a "genuine community feeling."
The tax-payers and citizens of Menlo Park should thank their lucky stars that Mr. Sheeper is managing this facility. I can't imagine what Burgess would be like if it were union operated.
Here's a tip to the Menlo Park City council: Tim's a creative guy: why not ask him for his ideas on how to get some businesses back into the boarded-up sections along the two-mile stretch on El Camino! I bet he'd help you increase your tax revenues.
Posted by Coach Tom McRae, a resident of another community, on Sep 15, 2009 at 10:19 pm
I am the coach of SOLO Aquatics and have been coaching in the area for the past twenty years. I helped design the facility and my swim members helped pass the meassure T funding. The locker rooms are small because of the size of the footprint and could be addressed.
We use Menlo-Atherton HS pool as well where I also coach the Bears swim program that has won the champs the past few years. When Burgess was being built SOLO worked with the City to provide community access at the high school. SOLO planned on full rental use of the new pool upon completion.
When the pool was finish City staff put together a report stating the pool would lose a ton of money. The reports were not correct, but it lead to the agreement to give the pool to Tim Sheeper. As part of the agreement SOLO was to be given access at fair rates. This has been an ongoing issue. SOLO is not allowed to use the warm pool for our young swimmers. Our pool space was cut again just this past month. Our rental fees to Menlo Sport are higher then to Menlo-Atherton. Tim Sheeper wanted almost three times the fees. After a meeting with the City manager we were able to set up rent. SOLO is interested in getting access to the facility and setting up a system that brings money to the City for the $7 million that the taxpayers put forward. I think it is fair to say that Menlo Sport has put together progamming that is good. But if you knew how much money was being made your head would spin.
Posted by taxpayer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 16, 2009 at 8:34 am
That logic beats all, Hank. Do you live in the house the rest of the time or do your cleaners? The city is still paying capital maintenance costs on the pool, by the way, as we, the taxpayers, continue to pay off the $7 million in bonds that built the pool.
Posted by taxpayer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 16, 2009 at 8:37 am
P.S. City oversight would have eliminated the problem that Coach McRae describes. SOLO was guaranteed access to the new pool, and Sheeper has given them the shaft. The group has made the best of their situation, but the fact is that their rights are no less than Sheeper's.
Posted by Please Stop, a resident of the Menlo Park: Fair Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:27 am
Outrageous claims made by SOLO, publically. Also, very embarrassing. I would hope that the Sheeper crew continues to keep their heads held high, and don't respond to this one-sided view of the world. Congratulations Coach McRae, you do a great job of coaching, however your communication style needs some work. This all came down to the wording in the contract and your interpretation, versus Tim's interpretation. Please don't cite your view as fact. I cannot believe our city has gotten to this point. The only facility operated and serviced impeccably, to all that use it in our city, is being criticized all over the need for divisive politics. If you naysayers blow this one, you should really be ashamed!
Posted by frequent Burgess user, a resident of the Menlo Park: University Heights neighborhood, on Sep 16, 2009 at 11:45 pm
I thought the question was whether people thought the Burgess experience is better now than when the city ran it. I haven't heard one person who would really want it the way it was, and despite some criticisms, pool users generally seem happy with the current setup.
When something is a success, it always seems to bring out the gripers, the whiners and the conspiracy theorists. This is no different. The question should really be how we take this model of success and expand it elsewhere in the city. I for one can't understand why, in a community as affluent as Menlo Park is, we have boarded-up buildings and empty storefronts. Why don't the naysayers focus their abundant energy and ideas there, or is it just easier to gripe about the supposed gobs of money a successful operation is raking in? As for Mr. Sheeper, most people have no idea of the number of hours he puts in to make that place a success. That's not being coin operated; that's commitment and passion.
So get a life, and leave this great facility and its programs alone. Better yet, come and join one of the programs and see what you're missing.
Posted by happy camper, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 8:27 am
I have a fantastic idea! Have Menlo Park build new facilities for its residents so that we could all start our own businesses at no cost to us. I can think of a lot of different businesses, ranging from ice cream stores to movie theaters to groceries and beauty salons, that the city could invest in.
The result: we would have a lot of new buildings in town and the residents, not having had to spend our own money to be in business, would be prosperous and happy. We might even be able to afford regular swim sessions at Burgess pool!
Posted by frequent Burgess user, a resident of the Menlo Park: University Heights neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 9:08 am
"happy camper" is exactly what I'm talking about. Nice sarcasm, but again all you offer is criticism and gripes, not solutions. Some people are doers, and others are just talkers who never actually do anything. Tell you what -- the critics should put a coalition together to operate the pool when the current contract is up. I'd love to see how you'd run it...no, wait, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.
Posted by truth, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 9:48 am
The question was not compared to before because before would have meant before the $7M investment. Please at least try to keep this discussion framed honestly. The question is pasted below so you can see it clearly.
"Burgess Pool users: How do you like swimming at Burgess Pool? Do you like the programs offered? Do you think the rates are fair? Are you satisfied with the way the new pool has been run since 2006, under the direction of Menlo Swim and Sport?"
Anyone that knows Tim and has talked to Tim will tell you, his biggest complaint was that his own supporters made him a political tool in the Menlo Park us versus them wars. They used him as an "anti-union" weapon and he ended up getting more attention and pressure as a result.
It was unfair and to this day I am upset with the folks (from the Masters group) who did it.
Tim provides a great service.
The insider gaming and all of that stuff is on the politicians. And they lost by thousands of votes, so we should all move on a bit.
Posted by What??!!, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm
Truth?? Truth?? Your name should be "I just make stuff up". Tim's biggest complaint is NOT that his supporters made him a political tool! Where the heck did you hear that from??? I know Tim personally, and I can assure you, he has NEVER brought that up, NEVER. His biggest concern is the people dragging his name thru the mud all in the interest of having the city run the business, and him losing out to over priced unions. THAT is the "truth". Please change your name! Wow!!
Posted by Jordi, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 12:57 pm
I use the pool 2-3 times per week. Great complex, well run, clean, friendly, well maintained, and very reasonably priced. Locker rooms are a little small, but they seem to work most of the time... If they could be expanded towards the outdoor showers, which are barely used, it should help.
Posted by truth, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 1:42 pm
He has. You are wrong my friend. He never wished to be put out in front of the city the way you guys did. You threw him to the wolves by using him as your poster child of outsourcing and consequently he got hammered.
I am guessing you think you are friends, but you are a client.
Posted by taxpayer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 2:12 pm
Truth speaks it. What???, no one blames Sheeper for what happened, but it's clear that he served as the unwitting pawn of a few politicians. Those people are now out of office and therefore must resort to propagandizing via email and this forum.
All the same, Sheeper should be paying for the service on those $7 million in bonds. It's absolutely unfair that we taxpayers have all the burden while he bears none of the costs.
Posted by What??!!, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 4:41 pm
Good idea "taxpayer", you must be related to "Truth". You WILL most certainly pay more taxes, and absorb more costs if your crew continues to complain about every loss of a government unionized job. Keep it up, I love paying taxes, it's SO Patriotic! What all of you fail to understand is that hundreds of city governments pay for outside services to operate gyms, pools, POLICE SERVICES, FIRE SERVICES, etc., and they do a fantastic, cost effective job.
Your constant need to require the city to have to absorb the expensive burden, or have the government run things, is crazy. I guess you are one of those that believe the government does a great job in running things. Please reference: Katrina, Social Security, Medicare, the Post Office, Welfare......Bike Tunnel Survey, Santa Cruz Avenue Blockade, 4th attempt at a "revisioning plan", MP Childcare, etc.
Posted by What??!!, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm
Ok, great logic. "greedy business man", wow, this blog is downright becoming full of idealistic socialists. I guess you must be struggling living in the good ol' USA, it's such a bad place with all of those greedy people that want to make a living, and do the best they can for themselves. OOoooo, bad, very bad. Operators, Operators, Operators, THAT is what the Sheeper organization is, and does. They don't own the facility, they don't have the authority to ever change or enhance the facility, they don't have the opportunity to invest in the facility, they are just plain ol' operators, at the will of the city, and at the will of [portion removed] that want to take away the one city facility that is operated cleanly, neatly and enhances this community. Please, those of you on this blog that have an objective viewpoint, stand up for this operator!!
Posted by frequent Burgess user, a resident of the Menlo Park: University Heights neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 11:28 pm
I wasn't aware of all the politics surrounding this topic; sounds every bit as divisive as those at the national level, only the stakes are much lower.
Anyway, those calling for Tim Sheeper to pay rent seem to forget the following, if I can piece it together properly from that statements that both sides make:
- the city paid ~$7M to renovate Burgess. Sunk cost no matter how you look at it.
- the city faced some other amount varying between $500K and $750K annually to operate the pool.
- Tim Sheeper's private operation costs the city nothing.
- the service he provides seems to be liked by a vast majority of users. In fact, I challenge you to find any city-run operation anywhere that has the breadth of programs that is offered at Burgess.
What I don't understand is that argument that he should pay rent. He is the *operator* of the pool, and it is a public facility. If he had to pay rent, then he should have no obligation whatsoever to open the facility up to the public. If I pay rent on a place, it's *my* place for as long as I rent it, and I can do what I want. You can't have your cake and eat it too -- either he is an operator or a renter, but not both.
Not that this argument will convince the rabid detractors and whiners, who miss the point entirely about what a gem we have in Menlo Park and don't care if it gets ruined in the course of whatever agenda they have. Someday, Tim Sheeper will have had enough of all of this crap, and then everyone will realize what we had once it's too late.
Posted by taxpayer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Sep 17, 2009 at 11:59 pm
Those of you who blindly defend the city's giveaway seem to conveniently forget that you are in the minority and we "rabid detractors and whiners" are the majority. The voters decided the giveaway was outrageous, and that's why Duboc and Winkler are no longer on the council.
"the city faced some other amount varying between $500K and $750K annually to operate the pool."
Propganda/baseless fiction that conveniently ignores the fact that most other local cities are making money or at least breaking even on their pools, even though their pools aren't as nice as ours. The then-council should have known this, because city staff researched and wrote a report that documented the financial information for local facilities.
Yes, the old pool cost money because it kept breaking down and needed a lot of repair. Many days it could not open. The new pool does not require this costly maintenance.
"He is the *operator* of the pool, and it is a public facility."
By that logic, if I run a restaurant I shouldn't have to pay rent to the landlord because my restaurant serves the public.
The only thing worse than the corruption that engendered this travesty is the extent to which people will go to excuse this corruption. Whether or not Sheeper is a "gem" (no one ever accused him of looking a gift horse in the mouth, that's for sure) is irrelevant.
Posted by Big Daddy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2009 at 8:14 am
"Someday, Tim Sheeper will have had enough of all of this crap, and then everyone will realize what we had once it's too late." (per "frequent Burgess user)
So, Tim Sheeper will get fed up with his plentiful profits, made from his operation of a "community" facility paid for by the taxpayer? That statement does not pass the smell test.
And the claim that the city is saving $500K-$700K annually by turning the brand new facilities -- and the opportunities they present to attract eager users -- to a private, for-profit operator is utter mendacity. No evidence, none whatsoever, to support that claim.
Posted by Freida, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2009 at 11:44 am
I own a zoo. My zoo has a concession stand. I don't want to run the concession stand myself, so I find someone willing to operate it.
a) Thank the operator profusely for saving me the expense of hiring someone to sell pink popcorn and cotton candy, charge him nothing and let him keep all the profits?
or do I
b) charge the operator rent and/or a cut of the sales revenue in exchange for providing the concession stand in a prime location that lures many hungry children eager for pink popcorn and cotton candy?
I think we're all aware of how the world works, so I just can't understand why anyone thinks a swimming pool is some sort of special exception to the rule.
Posted by SOCIALIST, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2009 at 1:12 pm
I'm praying that all this use of the word SOCIALIST isn't leading us back to the 50's and all that wonderful AntiAmericanism that was rampant... ie... calling someone a "commie" and therefore of dubious national value.
Enough with the "Socialist" label.
Privatizing a public property is something that should always be done carefully. Any private user should pay and keep it in good working order since they are borrowing PUBLIC PROPERTY. If that's socialism than all you Free Market folks better find another country because "We the People" bought (or are paying bonds) for all this public SOCIAL property and you don't get to walk up and claim the rights to it because you can label someone else a Socialist of a union member.
The pool is being run well! Are there concerns? Fine ... address them to the operator and stop complaining here. It's a public pool. The books should be open and using the pool should be fair and reasonable. If the "rent" is passed on to the users, that's fine then the users can pay for the pool and not depend on the SOCIAL network to pay for their swimming. (Granted... the pool's existence raises everyone's property values. We should all be paying something...)
Stop all this stupid Anti-American garbage. We all live here. Most everything around you was paid for in a socialist way and we are a community that believes in that... or do you want to pay for your own private fire department? We've been there in America.
Posted by What??!!, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2009 at 3:58 pm
"rabid detractors and whiners" are NOT "obviously the majority". No way, now that we know what a great experience the pool has been, there are many NORMAL folks that get it! And give us a break, Duboc and Winkler were NOT voted out because of the pool, there were many other trumped up charges from your side, which your marketing performed extremely well.(I'd be a little concerned though, now that the community is starting to REALLY understand the connection with your unions) I love your unbiased, scientific reasoning.
Posted by Returning Swimmer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2009 at 4:13 pm
The Burgess Park Pool(s) are very nice and I appreciate being able to use both pools as a resident of MP. I swim laps and train with the TNT Triathlon Team.
There are 2 things I would change: Please put no slip mats in the changing rooms and the central hallways of the locker rooms. I have slipped on the bare tile more than once. Now I no longer use the changing rooms or locker rooms out of concern for my safety (I've learned to change in the car and use my shower at home.) The mats are cheaper than a lawsuit.
Keep kids out of the larger lap pool. There is plenty of room in the Open Swim pool to do handstands and have water fights. Kids should be able to play in the pool, but not at the expense of those of us who want to just swim laps without having kids trying to jump into the lane on our heads.
Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2009 at 8:02 am
Ask yourself 2 questions.
Is the pool better run than when the City was operating it?
Would it cost the City more money to have the SEIU employees operating the pool than Tim Sheeper?
When you have answered these questions you will realize that the City made a very wise decision to let Tim Sheeper run the Burgess Pool. Who can argue with better quality of service at a lower cost.
Yes this is a Win-lose proposition. The City and the residents win and the SEIU loses. If the SEIU wasn't so avaricious it could compete. The only way the SEIU can win is for the City Council to abrogate its fiduciary responsibility to its residents and give in to the SEIU's unreasonable demands.
Posted by Ima Yawner, a resident of the Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2009 at 10:56 am
Which would be an interesting point, if the city or the great big scary ol' SEIU had actually put together a competing proposal to run the pool. But they didn't, so all of this is speculation and the usual union-bashing. Boring!