In a recent editorial in the Kirkland Reporter, Jeff Jared suggested that privatizing the Peter Kirk pool and the Lee Johnson field would be a better use of public assets by introducing a profit motive incentivized by letting these facilities operate under the management of private business owners. Mr. Jared’s assumption is that these assets could become profitable, if only they weren’t in the hands of government.
Think about his argument for privatizing public assets. If operating public pools were profitable, wouldn’t we see for-profit companies operating pools? The fact is, public pools are subsidized by tax payer dollars because pool fees do not fully recover the operating costs. A decent cost recovery rate for a public pool is 60 percent, meaning that pool admission fees cover approximately 60 percent of the operating costs. Pools are extremely expensive to operate. If the Peter Kirk pool was operated as a “money maker” the current $4 admission would have to double just to break even for an operator.
How would you feel about paying $8 or more to use the pool?
The same can be said of public sports fields. The City of Kirkland subsidizes the cost of maintenance of all the sports fields in Kirkland, not just the Lee Johnson field. Other cities do the same. If the local government didn’t subsidize sports user groups, leagues and teams, I can assure you that their costs to utilize the field, even with commercialization, would increase significantly.
There are many things that the private sector does efficiently and cost effectively, but operating public assets like pools and small ball fields using a capitalize approach doesn’t work. Mr. Jarad, public libraries are subsidized, roadway maintenance is subsidized, bus service is subsidized, and park maintenance is subsidized just to name a few. Using your privatization model, we would pay to check out books at the library or have a few to enter a city park. There are some things that are done for the greater good of the community and not just to make a dollar.
Patrick Harris, Kirkland