Just in time for summer, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to eliminate fees charged for using the county's 30 public pools.
The fees of $2 for adults and $1 for children were a last-ditch grab for revenue implemented in 1994, as the county tottered on the brink of bankruptcy. Five years later, the county is in the black and hiring 5,000 workers.
"We can afford it, and it's the right thing to do," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who proposed the rollback. "We have turned this county around financially and we are in the black. The least we can do is allow kids who rely on public pools for their summertime recreation their share."
Local pool managers said eliminating the fee would bring out more swimmers.
"Before we started charging, attendance was high," said Matthew Baham of the Knollwood Golf Course Pool in Granada Hills. "Hopefully, it will increase back to the numbers it used to be--100 to 150 per day."
John Matthews of the George Lane Pool in Quartz Hill said as many as 600 people at a time might use the pool--about double the typical crowd in recent summers.
"We have the staff and we have the facility to cater to that many people," he said.
Eliminating the fee is one way that local taxpayers benefit from the economic boom, which has swelled the coffers of local governments and kicked them into a modest expansion mode. Mayor Richard Riordan has proposed eliminating the 75-cent fee at city pools this summer with part of City Hall's surplus.
After initially warning that it may take weeks to eliminate the fees, parks officials late Tuesday said they expect to have the pools free by Saturday, the day most will open.
County Parks and Recreation Director Rodney Cooper told supervisors that his agency would have to prepare for an expected onslaught of new swimmers. About 250,000 use the county's pools each year, but twice that many used them before fees were implemented in 1994.
Cooper said the county will have to hire more lifeguards and locker room attendants, especially because the pools again may become magnets for homeless people.
The county also will have to figure out what to do with 60 cashiers that it has hired for the summer. A county parks spokeswoman said they would be assigned to other positions.
Supervisors on Tuesday approved giving the parks department an extra $500,000 to cover the loss of revenues from the fees and fund the new positions.
Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who runs a foundation that pays for children to use pools in her district, praised the fee elimination, saying it will give children something to do over the summer.
"It's keeping kids out of trouble and it's so important for children to have recreation over the summer," she said.
The following is a list of Los Angeles County pools in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. They are open for recreational swimming 12:30 to 5 p.m. seven days a week during the summer. Swimming is free as of Saturday.
El Cariso Pool
13100 Hubbard St.
Knollwood Golf Course Pool
12040 Balboa Blvd.
Everett Martin Pool
35548 92nd St. East
George Lane Pool
5520 W. Ave. L-8
Val Verde Park Pool
30300 W. Arlington St.
Times staff writer Agnes Diggs contributed to this story.