The news splashing around St. Clair City Hall Monday night was the city pool will open for the summer after all.
The board of aldermen voted to open the pool for one more season after City Administrator Rick Childers informed members and other city officials that the Department of Justice has delayed implementing its Americans With Disabilities Act requirements about making all pools handicap-accessible this year. Childers received an email stating that the compliance deadline has been extended from this spring to January 2013.
The aldermen needed to approve the opening since they had voted two weeks earlier not to open the facility because costs associated with making it ADA complaint by adding a handicap chair lift were too expensive and significantly over what the city has budgeted.
Other repairs still need to be done to the aging pool, and lifeguard training still must take place. But, the targeted opening date is Saturday, June 9, or two weeks later than originally planned.
“The Department of Justice apparently has extended the deadline for compliance of the ADA (handicap chair lift) to January,” Childers said on Monday night during the board’s regular meeting. “It’s entirely up to the board which direction you want to go, but I think we probably could have the pool open by June 9.”
Childers said other repairs and maintenance issues still have to be addressed, including the repair of some cracks, painting the facility and work on the pool’s chlorination system.
The price tag to address those items previously has been listed at about $2,000. The pool budget has about $4,500 in it for maintenance issues this year, Childers said.
Adding the chair lift would have cost at least $10,000, city officials said.
Caution was given, however, that the pool is on its last legs.
“I will not give the board any assurances that the pool will last through the summer,” Childers said in referring to the fact that the nearly 50-year-old facility has had ongoing maintenance issues for the past few years, including last year when on some days it lost a foot of water. “But, we think we probably could get everything done to have it open by June 9.”
Pool Supervisor Karen McGlenn agreed that the pool isn’t in the best of shape.
“The pool has problems,” she said. “Every year, there’s always a new area that has to be repaired.”
She also confirmed that last year the pool lost a lot of water, supporting Childers’ comments that on some days it was as much as about a foot.
Aldermen discussed the condition of the pool and that they did not want to put a lot of money into it when 2012 probably would be its last year of use. When the board originally approved opening it for the 2012 season during its budget process last December, the talk was that this year would be its last.
So, after the DOJ delay, it was decided on Monday to spend some money this year to make the necessary repairs and see what happens.
“If we put water in it, people will swim in it,” McGlenn said, adding that she already has contacted lifeguards.
“The bottom line is we think we can have it open under budget,” Childers said. “If something major goes wrong, we can let you know.”
The motion to open the facility was approved on a 2-0 vote. Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate was not present at the meeting and Ward 2 Alderman Barb McGlenn abstained from voting.
Karen McGlenn said she would start working on cleaning the pool and getting the facility ready as quickly as possible. Lifeguards also have to have training completed by the time it opens.
The email Childers received stated that the extension was granted because of “significant misunderstandings about the new ADA requirement for accessible means of entry.”
A new “final rule” from the DOJ gives operators of existing pools more time to meet ADA standards, the email stated.
“This requirement has been controversial, as shown by the volume of 1,915 comments submitted to DOJ,” the email read. “January 2013 was chosen because some comments showed a significant misunderstanding of the requirements among pool owners and operators.”
The email came from the Occupational Health & Safety organization.
After the aldermen approved opening the pool, Mayor Ron Blum cautioned the board that he didn’t want this issue to come up annually.
He also stated that a committee has been formed to look into the possibility of erecting some kind of spray park in the city to replace the pool.
“I don’t want to go through this every year,” he said of the pool. “I know it’s an old and failing facility.”
He then mentioned the committee and that its members have been charged with looking into spray park options to see if building one would be feasible to replace the pool.
“I’d like to have something in place next summer,” Blum said.
The committee is being chaired by Barb McGlenn.
A spray park has been a topic of discussion during previous board meetings. The focus of those talks mainly has been informational.