Jersey City Council discusses potential city summer camp & pool fees increases


The Jersey City Council discussed an ordinance that would raise fees for the city summer camp and three municipal pools: the one at Pershing Field, Pavonia Municipal Pool, and the Lafayette Aquatic Center during their caucus yesterday.

Screenshot via Microsoft Teams.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

“This is an important one council members, because we are talking here about extending the fees that already exist at our Pershing Pool to both of our outdoor pools, as well, when they are in operation,” Recreation and Youth Development Director Lucinda McLaughlin said.

“As well as to amend the ways that memberships exist, at Pershing Pool specifically. We have not traditionally had fees at either Pavonia Pool or Lafayette Poll, which are open in the summer and our own ordinances did permit those pools to be run for free for residents.”

She explained that they need Green Acres funding was utilized for all three parks that the pools are in, and therefore they cannot charge out of towners more than double what they charge residents.

The ordinance proposes $3 fees for adult residents (18 to 61), $2 for children, and $1 for seniors. Adults and children would pay $1 extra on weekends and holidays, while senior fees would remain the same.

Non-resident adults and children would double, with the holiday and weekend fees raising to $8 and $6, respectively, while senior fees would remain stable at $2.

McLaughlin also indicated that the rec department allocates about $1.4 million of staff services to operate and maintain the pools, therefore the nominal fees at the two outdoor pools made sense.

“So, this is just to maintain the status quo, to make it financially sustainable?” Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh asked.

“ … The fees here will be a small drop in the bucket … We want to have aquatics available in Jersey City to our residents, we just cannot have it available only to our residents the way Green Acres funding has been utilized,” McLaughlin replied.

Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore said he thought summer camp would remain free to low-income residents and asked how the program would work when more than one family member is trying to enroll.

McLaughlin said the base fee is $150 weekly and $75 for families that qualify as low to moderate income. She added that families who truly can’t afford it could reach out to the rec department and they would attempt to find sponsorships.

“There’s a lot of four-family siblings that’s all in that same age bracket right there and they’re losing their minds right now ,” Gilmore continued.

“My responsibility as a director is to be sustainable and that what we’re doing today, we’re able to do tomorrow.  And unfortunately, the model for everything being free, from a recreational perspective, is not sustainable. And I know we’re all being asked to make some tough decisions across the city …  I do not take lightly what I am saying in front of you and the request that we’ll be making of constituents,” McLaughlin said.

Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey expressed concerns over the six-month fees, which would be $200 for adult residents (18 to 61), and $75 for children and seniors. Those fees are doubled for non-residents.

McLaughlin responded that the fees were as low as they could possibly be and that membership rates at Pershing Pool hadn’t been increased in 10 to 15 years, as well as that some municipalities charge $650 for six months.

“We spoke about sponsors. Is there any way … that grant money could go to sponsorship for these children with these parents that have a financial challenge?” Council President Joyce Watterman asked.

McLaughlin said that would be unlikely for this summer, prompting Watterman to follow up and ask if perhaps crime prevention grants could be utilized.

“If children are active, then that is preventing them from getting into mischief,” she argued.

McLaughlin said they were looking at their options.

“Is there any way we could do a family rate?” Gilmore inquired.

McLaughlin said they’d done everything they could to get the rates as low as possible, though Gilmore said he was still concerned about the cost of summer camp.

He suggested that a mother on public assistance should be eligible for a special family rate.

“We need to get through this season and see what the rollout is,” McLaughlin answered.

She said lot of work went into making an exception for a slight increase in fees after revenues were particularly low last year.

“Why all of a sudden is there a crisis?” Ward C Council Rich Boggiano asked.

“It wasn’t sustainable how we have been operating,” McLaughlin repeated, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a number of things.

“With taxes going up, up, up, there seems to be no money for anything,” Boggiano chided.

Watterman again said they could use grants if they were strategic.

“We need to get the input in now. Every department is falling short,” she added.

“This has been going on for the 25-plus years I’ve been engaged in recreation,” Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera said about the increased fees.

Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise asked McLaughlin if she knew the last time fees had increases, to which she said most hadn’t changed in 18 years.

“We get a lot of complaints when locker rooms aren’t working well. People complain throughout the summer,” said DeGise, adding that the increase seemed worthwhile and made sense.

“I have yet to find a town that has lesser fees than we are proposing,” McLaughlin declared.

The Jersey City Council will convene tomorrow at City Hall, 280 Grove St., at 6 p.m. for their regular meeting, which will also stream live on Microsoft Teams.

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  1. Just another way to pocket bet money is found for raises. It’s gonna cost more when these kids get into trouble cause they have nothing else to do. Time for new leadership that can find ways to help poor families stop giving tax breaks to development around this city and there will be money for other things.