North Whidbey Aquajets returning from college can swim for free

College kids who were part of the North Whidbey Aquatics Club during their earlier school years won’t have to pay to swim this summer.

Commissioners with the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District discussed whether to cancel the longtime, free-swim program during a special meeting Wednesday night.

Bill Walker, the pool director, warned that allowing the college kids to swim for free may not be legal. He said he checked with an official from Municipal Research and Service Center and was told that it constitutes a “gifting.”

Government entities, Walker explained, aren’t allowed to make gifts since they use taxpayer dollars. He said he was told that he can’t even give out free passes to kids who win contests at the pool.

It’s been a practice for years to allow “returning seniors” to use the pool for free. Kids who are on the Aquajets team can also swim for free, but their families pay a fee for them to be on the club.

Commissioner Allen McDougall offered that the program would be legal if was considered an “entitlement.”

He suggested that kids who are part of the club for years, go to college and return to inspire younger people have earned an entitlement.

Commissioner Steven Hoffmire, on the other hand, said he wasn’t sure if it was fair to give free swim time to these college kids, but not to others in the community.

He said some kids are too poor to swim.

Many disabled people use the pool. He asked why they don’t also get the gift of free swimming.

“We are deciding who’s blessed and who’s not,” he said.

Walker suggested that students who’ve been a part of the swim club shouldn’t feel like they’re entitled to something from their community. Instead, he said maybe they should be giving back.

Walker pointed out that the fees families pay for their kids to be in the Aquatics Club don’t cover the cost of the program.

The district subsidized it by $40,000 a year, Walker said.

Only two or three college kids took advantage of the free swimming time last summer. People in the audience said one young woman is planning to use the free program this summer.

In the end, the three commissioners present decided to table the issue until after the summer.

Which means free swimming for the former Aquajets.


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