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Swimming pools: after closures, how municipalities are trying to regain control

Good news for people who want to go to the Pailleron swimming pool, in Paris.

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Swimming pools: after closures, how municipalities are trying to regain control

Good news for people who want to go to the Pailleron swimming pool, in Paris. This swimming pool operated by the company Vert Marine reopens its doors to the public this week. After "intense discussions", the deputy mayor in charge of Sport Pierre Rabadan announced on Twitter the reopening "very quickly" of this sports space located in the 19th arrondissement which has one of the busiest swimming pools in the capital.

About thirty public swimming pools had closed their doors on Monday, September 5 because the operating company, Vert Marine, can no longer cope with the increase in energy prices. The company, which has 2,000 employees, had to close "for a temporary period" a third of its establishments and placed "staff on partial unemployment", she said in a press release sent to AFP. The day after this surprise announcement, the French Swimming Federation (FFN) had requested the “immediate” reopening of the thirty closed swimming pools. "Could we accept from a mayor that he closes a school for economic reasons?" Asked the FFN in a press release.

In Montauban, the Ingréo swimming pool is also reopening its doors this Monday, September 12. Admissions are even free throughout the week. The Ingréo complex is now managed by the Montalban municipality through a temporary management, explains Le Journal Toulousain. The establishment and its staff are requisitioned. "In application of the public service delegation contract and because of Vert Marine's contractual fault, the resumption of the provisional management of the aquatic complex by the City of Montauban will allow the reception of school, individual and institutional audiences, but also clubs, at the usual times and conditions from this Monday", announces the town hall in a press release.

In Versailles, where the Montbauron swimming pool had also closed, the mayor François de Mazières explained on Twitter that it would now be up to the municipality "to buy the gas and electricity necessary" for the operation of the swimming pool, for then "the resell for the same amount" to Vert Marine.

"As we had had the wisdom to negotiate much lower prices with our unions until the end of the year, unlike Vert Marine, which is supplied day by day on the market, this proposal allows Vert Marine to restore its accounts for the operation of the Montbauron swimming pool", specified the mayor of Versailles in an interview with the actu.fr site.

In Clichy-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis), the city of mayor Olivier Klein, who is also the delegate minister in charge of the City and Housing, the municipality will take charge of part of the deficit of the operator Vert Marine, as Le Parisien points out. It is up to the delegate to save 10% of energy.

About 10% of the 4,000 French public swimming pools are managed via a public service delegation, such as the company Vert Marine, and not directly by the community where it is located. Often heated by gas, swimming pools are very energy-intensive equipment and bear the full brunt of rising prices. Electricity prices for 2023 on the wholesale market broke a record for France at the end of August, reaching more than 1000 euros per megawatt/hour (MWh), against around 85 euros per MWh a year ago.

Vert Marine's energy bill has gone from "15 to 100 million euros", or "the entire annual turnover of the company". The company, which has been in discussions with communities since June 2022, says it has not been able to find a solution at this stage. She adds that she does not want to multiply prices by three. Of the 90 swimming pools and ice rinks it manages, some delegation contracts do not include the cost of energy.

A senatorial report published in July reported a "50% jump in energy expenditure", according to the Association of Small Towns of France (APVF), while Intermunicipalities of France considers that the energy bill "of three quarters of intercommunalities has doubled, even tripled or quadrupled". Among all the equipment, swimming pools are often considered to be an important item of expenditure, "more than 60% being over 30 years old", notes Urban France, which represents the large cities.

Since this summer, several French communities have decided to reduce the hourly amplitudes of their swimming pool, or even have lowered the temperature of the water to try to reduce an exploding bill. The trend could continue given the energy crisis. According to the France Urbaine association, around 10% of their members are planning swimming pool closures this winter.

Unlike individuals, local authorities are subject to the market price, without a tariff shield. Since 2021, only certain small municipalities are eligible for regulated sales tariffs and can benefit from the tariff shield which limits the increase to 4%. This question of swimming pools and ice rinks is on the menu of the government's sports working group on energy sobriety.

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