Livonia Swimming Toward Privatization?

LIVONIA — The city of Livonia and many other municipalities have been grappling with a decline in revenues over the past five years. One way Livonia has tried to manage this decline is by making use of competitive contracting. In June, Livonia Mayor Jack Engebretson told The Detroit News that he was looking at a number of options — including privatization — for the city’s three municipally owned and managed swimming pools.

In a conversation with Michigan Privatization Report Editor Michael LaFaive, Engebretson detailed how the city owned three pools, one of which had been operated by the local YMCA. When the YMCA returned its operation to the city a year early, the cash-strapped city was left with few options and closed the pool. The mayor has had some dialogue with local civic associations that use the pools about these groups taking over the pools’ operation.

No group has yet expressed an interest but that may change when the city tries to finalize its next budget and considers closing the remaining pools. There are some case precedents for allowing local nonprofit groups to operate city facilities. For example, the Livonia Hockey Association operates all three of the city’s ice sheets and does so without a subsidy. An added benefit is that the city is no longer exposed to liability suits associated with running municipal ice arenas.

As MPR went to print the Detroit News reported that two of the Livonia pools may continue to be operated in 2006 under the auspices of the city — barring an absence of additional revenue sharing cuts from the state.