Mayor Diane Delaware said the public pool at the Wardell Leach Recreational Complex is not being operated in a safe manner, and it's costing the city money in insurance fees.
Delaware said a recent study revealed problems with the operation of the pool ranging from inadequate lifeguard staffing to improper storage of chemicals and the lack of an anti-entrapment safety device on the main drain. Delaware said these findings put the city in a difficult situation because the city owns the property and pays the insurance, but the Parks & Recreation Board is in charge of managing the pool.
"How can you be responsible for things you can't control," Delaware asked. "I get that people want to open the pool, but if it isn't going to be managed properly, and we can't control it, people are still going to come here and ask us for money for the pool. We didn't give them money this year."
Delaware said the pool is one of the major factors driving up the city's insurance rate.
"I'm never going to be in favor of opening the pool when the individuals who manage it can't do the simple things associated with it like storing chemicals. We don't manage that pool, but it's ours, and it's not good."
Later in the meeting Ward 4 Alderman Aubry Brent Jr. asked if there would continue to be problems getting the pool opened in the future. This year former Mayor Wardell Leach led a fundraising drive to raise money to open the pool.
"We didn't run into any problems," Delaware responded. "The children swam this year, but I wanted to make sure it was closed now because I got this safety report. The safety report is not good. You can't continue to go to the pool and a lifeguard not be there or the lifeguard rotation is not correct."
Brent said he doesn't understand why the city can't just make changes to the Parks & Recreation Board or take over the program if the board isn't managing the property in an acceptable manner.
"What's the problem with getting rid of that board," Brent asked.
"You know the problem," Delaware responded. "It's a state-assigned board. Somewhere along the way, somebody gave our Parks and Rec away. I don't know who it was. I wasn't here then."
Brent said he hopes the problems can be resolved in a manner that allows the pool to continue to operate.
"Safety is always number one, but I would still like to see the program go on like we are supposed to have it," Brent said.
Delaware said other problems associated with safety will also be addressed. She said that city employees will be required to wear safety vests while working from now on.
The mayor said another problem that has been identified is city vehicles being driven with worn out and unsafe tires.
"I know of no reason why we can't have tires on our trucks," Delaware said. "We have not told anybody they can't have tires, and we have not told anyone that they must ride their tires down to the treads."
Delaware said these are examples of the kind of things the city will be focused on in an effort to increase safety and reduce the city's insurance rate.
"These are the kinds of things that we pay for on the back end," Delaware said.