The City of Hialeah will reinstate work hours for the aquatic recreation program, following protests from dozens of parents and their children.
"We are very happy with the City for having made a commitment to keeping this program, which is so good for our kids," said Mirtha Camacho, whose 10-year-old daughter participates in the swimming program offered at the Milander Aquatic Center, 4820 Palm Ave.
During a public session on Wednesday, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, assured the public that his administration will seek financial help from the private sector to reinstate the swimming classes and the hours cut.
A similar situation took place in 2011 under Hernandez's leadership as well as that of Hialeah Council President Isis Garcia-Martinez. At that time, it also resulted in a search for funds in the private sector.
Garcia-Martinez said there's already an existing public commitment on behalf of the mayor’s administration to maintain the aquatic recreation program in Hialeah in good standing.
“The mayor has committed to cover the training hours, which were cut," said Garcia-Martinez. "Satisfying the needs of children and of the older generations in our communities is a priority for us as authorities."
The team of nine swimming coaches, who work at Milander, have progressively had their work hours cut from 29 weekly hours to 21 and then 17. The average pay of each coach is $13 per hour. The monthly charges for Hialeah residents who register in the program is $45 and $55 for non-residents.
The explanation offered to parents by a representative of Hernandez's municipal government indicated that the cuts faced by the program signaled a larger problem: balancing city finances and the strenuous obligations to the employee pension system.
But in the face of public criticism, Hernandez took a step back and opted to find an emergency solution, just as he did four years ago.
At that time, Hernandez — who had just become mayor following the resignation of Julio Robaina, who waged an unsuccessful bid to be mayor of Miami-Dade County — implemented a plan to reopen 11 city parks, which had been shut down because of progressive budget cuts faced by Hialeah's recreational programs.
It was then that Hernandez and Garcia-Martinez led a successful search for funds, secured from eight private businesses to hire 15 parks and recreation employees. The decision allowed for the immediate reinstatement of a state subsidy that provided free meals for 500 children. It has been suspended.
"We're happy about the city's decision,” said Hetty Rodriguez, mother of a 13-year-old boy registered in the swimming program.
Follow Enrique Flor on Twitter @kikeflor