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Orange County Register (California)

Nearly 40 years ago, Brian Goodell set world records as he won two gold medals during the Olympic Games in Montreal.

On Monday night, Goodell came to Mission Viejo City Hall to defend the swim club that formed a mile away in his living room and helped earn him the top spot on that Olympic podium.

"I just want to say I support anything to keep the Nadadores program going," Goodell said in council chambers overflowing with Nadadores supporters decked out in yellow and blue. "The things that they're going to do in this world because of the discipline, the training, the love, the respect that they learned being a part of such a great program is invaluable to our community."

The Mission Viejo Nadadores have trained in the city-owned Marguerite Aquatics Center since 1972. An agreement to let the team continue using that facility for the next 20 years was up for renewal during Monday's City Council meeting, with Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht in strong opposition to its terms.

The Nadadores have exclusive rights to use the center's three pools, paying for their maintenance and upkeep. However, Mission Viejo picks up the tab for 55 percent of the facility's utilities and all of its landscaping, to the tune of roughly $275,000 annually over the past 14 years, City Manager Dennis Wilberg said.

In contrast, Wilberg said, San Clemente spends an average of nearly $900,000 on its aquatics program, Laguna Niguel spends nearly $600,000 and Irvine spends more than $1 million. However, Schlicht pointed out those cities' facilities are open to the public.

"It's not fair to ask residents to pay for private facilities," Schlicht said.

The Nadadores proposed a few options for making the facility and their services available to the public, Assistant City Manager Keith Rattay said. Ideas include having some open lap swimming time at the pool, leading swim lessons at Sierra and Montanoso recreation center pools, offering water-safety courses and leading water-aerobics classes for seniors.

But with the city paying such a large subsidy to support the nonprofit program each year, Schlicht said she believes the Nadadores should open their books for public scrutiny. She's concerned about why the program can't be self-sustaining after nearly half a century, citing an obligation to ensure the club's directors aren't leading "extravagant lifestyles" on the taxpayers' dime - an allegation that drew loud jeers from the audience.

Schlicht pointed to a city report that showed Mission Viejo pays roughly $300 to subsidize each Nadadores swimmer compared with $25 for each Little League player.

Schlicht wanted to delay a vote until staff brought back a detailed report on a host of questions she'd posed. The rest of the council disagreed, approving the 20-year agreement on a 4-1 vote.

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April 28, 2014


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