Local pool managers haven’t gone off the deep end yet.
They are waiting until early May to see if Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announces any changes to the restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then they will know how to handle the upcoming season.
Right now, Brownstown Pool manager Jamie Temple and Shields Park Pool managers Dave and Chris Boggs plan to open their facilities the first week of June. That’s a week later, as pools usually open around Memorial Day.
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Since March, Holcomb has issued a stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the virus, people are asked to practice social distancing by staying 6 feet apart and gatherings are limited to 10 people.
The pools usually draw waves of people well past that number, so any changes to the restrictions will dictate the local pool managers’ decisions.
“I hate to make a decision now. It changes day to day,” Temple told the Brownstown Park Board during a meeting conducted via Zoom. “There’s a lot that can happen, there are a lot of questions, but I just feel like waiting is not a bad idea right now.”
The park board will meet two times in May after Holcomb’s announcement, so that’s when a final decision will be made.
“The last date I feel like we would have to make a decision would be the May 19 meeting,” Temple said. “That would be the last call. We either do it or we don’t. If we wait too much longer after that, we won’t have much of a season at all.”
If the opening date remains the same, Temple said she could immediately start filling the pool after the May 19 meeting and submit water samples.
She also would need to start recertifying returning lifeguards and certifying new ones. A challenge with that is having to be close to them during training, she said.
“You can’t train them 6 feet away. You use each other to train,” Temple said.
She’s also concerned if pools open but there are restrictions on the number of patrons. Board member Paula Workman said she’s not sure if it will be cost-effective if the limits are 50 or 100. The cost to pay lifeguards and other staff will well exceed the money brought in from admission.
“If they do go on restricted numbers and we’re at 100 and that 101st kid shows up and has a pool pass, that’s going to put you guys in a bad, bad spot,” Workman said to Temple. “I think we look and see at the middle of May what the governor is doing with numbers.”
Board President Brian Wheeler said they want to come as close to breaking even as possible, but he’s not sure if that would be possible. Board member Kevin Hanner said it would hurt if the pool opens a month later than planned.
Board secretary Rachel Johnson said kids would benefit from the pool after being cooped up inside their homes because of the virus pandemic.
“I hate to take it from the kids … I do feel like it has to be open without restrictions of numbers or else it’s not going to be worth opening,” she said.
“I think (Temple) is kind of coming around to understand the business side of it, but she sees a lot of the happiness that comes from it,” Johnson said. “Plus, her lifeguards, they are like a little family, and they spend the summer together. They are worrying about summer plans and money. She has a lot riding on her that she just hates drawing it out.”
Dave Boggs said he recently talked to city and state officials, and he and his wife also are waiting to see what Holcomb says in early May.
They will continue to work with Parks Director Stacy Findley, Mayor Matt Nicholson and the parks board.
“It’s a community decision,” Chris Boggs said.
Dave said he knows of other communities that already made the decision to close their pools for the summer.
“We just don’t know yet,” he said.
If the opening date is moved back and there are attendance restrictions, Chris said they could make it work. The pool typically operates with two different sessions anyway — early and late afternoon.
“It’s just going to be a whole different season,” Chris said.
As far as recertifying lifeguards, Dave said that won’t be a problem because he does that himself. Plus, the American Red Cross announced licenses won’t expire until Sept. 30, so that won’t impact lifeguards this season.
The city is accepting applications for office staff, concessions and lifeguards. Those interested should email [email protected] for an application packet.
Shields Park Pool also hosts the three-day Seymour Splash meet in July, which last year drew more than 500 swimmers from 22 teams from across the state. This is supposed to be the 30th year for the event.
Dave said USA Swimming already has canceled meets through June 1, so the organization will make the final call on events.
If the pool opening is pushed back, Dave said they could consider extending the season, but that could create a staffing issue because kids who normally work as lifeguards would be back in school.
Chris said it’s also possible they will have to meet certain sanitation guidelines, such as cleaning the locker rooms, deck chairs and lifeguard chairs multiple times a day.
When the Boggses took over the pool in 1991, Dave said they opened a couple weeks late, but they have never had to cancel a whole season. This year, though, is an unprecedented time, he said.
“We are adjusting and learning on the fly right now,” he said.