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Opening Municipal Pool on Sundays Brings Protests

Opening Municipal Pool on Sundays Brings Protests



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BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (AP) -- City officials have yet to disclose the financial results of their experiment in opening the municipal swimming pool on Sundays, but they already hearing from those opposed on religious grounds.

"I don't want it to become a religious issue," Mayor LouAnn Christensen said. "If we have to subsidize it so high to keep it open on Sundays, then we won't."

The majority of residents in Box Elder County are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which views Sunday as a day that should be devoted to worship and a day of rest.

Christensen said that when city leaders decided to raise taxes there was a public outcry, "but not to this degree. I really did not honestly think it would be this big of a deal."

The city had decided to open the pool on Sundays for one month -- July -- to see if it was economically feasible and if there was interest.

City leaders noted that municipal swimming pools in Layton, Roy and Logan were open on Sundays.

Many pools across the country are trying to find ways to bring in more business because of declining use. Brigham City has seen a similar decline. When Logan opened its pool in 2001, Cache County residents' use of the Brigham City pool dropped from 19 percent to 5 percent.

In 2002, 62,000 people visited the pool, and last year the number was 49,000.

Christensen said she had been asked by residents if the pool could open on Sundays.

When the council decided to give it a shot on a trial basis, the controversy began.

Christensen said she has received countless letters on the issue, 2-to-1 in favor of Sunday closing, and "that does not count the people on the street who stop to talk to me."

City parks and recreation staffers are to disclose the economic results of the Sunday openings on Thursday. City Council members will not make a decision that night, said City Administrator Don Tingey.

Tingey said city leaders looked at the pool and wondered why it wasn't open on Sunday as the city's golf course is open on Sundays.

"It (swimming) is a good family Sunday activity. There is not a whole lot to do, except go to the golf course or the park, it's just one more activity," Tingey said.

Councilman Alden Farr voted against the July test.

"I was voted to represent my constituents and I have to look at the community as a whole. Religious issues are important here," Farr said.

Councilman Bob Marabella denied rumors that lifeguards were forced to work on Sundays.

"The parks and recreation department asked for volunteers and they got them," Marabella said.

Tingey said attendance at the pool on the July Sundays ranged from 170 to 270 people.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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