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Familiar group pursues pool operations

August 15, 2012
Steve Schulwitz - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - The Alpena County Commissioners issued a "Request for Proposal" last month for the operations management of the county-owned Plaza Pool. There was only one proposal submitted, and it is from a managing group in which the county is familiar - Synchronizations Management LLC.

The company, operated by Darlene Wilmot and Norm Sommerfeld, already works with the county through the Park Family Foundation in the operations of the Northern Lights Arena. They also oversee the logistics of the APlex as well. The commissioners had been impressed with the job done at the rink, and at the full board of commissioners meeting on Aug. 28, they could take the helm at the pool on Sept. 4. Wilmot said managing the pool will further bolster what can be offered in terms of recreation in Alpena with the experience the group has, and believes the pool can thrive as the arena has.

"What we find is when you have people that know recreation doing their job. If we can help by coordinating the programming and handling the managerial art of it, then it frees up time of the pool staff to do what they do best. That is what the recipe for success is," Wilmot said.

One of the goals of Synchonizations is to sell advertising at the pool the way it has at the arena and the convention center. Sommerfeld showed in a proposed 2013 budget for the pool that he can earn $15,000 in advertising revenue. He said that dollar amount could be conservative, because the company could offer packages for businesses to advertise at all three facilities.

"There is no question in my mind that in terms of advertising the pool could be as successful and attractive to advertisers as the arena and the APlex," Sommerfeld said. "It begins with creating a positive atmosphere. You look at the arena in the last year, and the advertising has been going gangbusters because you see positive things happening there and sponsors want to be a part of that. I don't see any reason that what is happening at the other places won't happen at the Plaza Pool."

Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said he is impressed with the way Wilmot and Sommerfeld have handled business at the ice rink and that he believes they would be a good fit in pool operations. He said Sommerfeld's seven years of managing a pool in Gaylord also is key.

"The RFP was very thorough in terms of all of the things we were concerned about, but their proposal answered most of my concerns and his experience is very instrumental," VanWormer said. "They make sure people visiting places like the arena get a good impression when you first walk in. They are clean, the maintenance is up to date. I think it will be the same way at the pool, because they use their people well and have good, fresh ideas."

Commissioner Ken Hubbard had a few concerns about the proposal in terms of the 2013 budget, but said they have done a good job of caring for and managing the arena thus far.

"I have a few concerns about the pool in general. Not just this RFP, but the long-term range of it," Hubbard said. "The community needs to understand that we support it, regardless if it's with county employees or an agency to manage it. They are the only ones who bid, and I would like to have seen anyone else interested, but it is a small community and it's not unexpected they are interested in it. They are doing many other things and have been doing a good job where they have been before. I was concerned about the prices, but they say they won't be raised, and I was concerned about that at the arena as well, but they have done a good job."

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Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5689.



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