A state health department environmentalist, after making a visit to the Smithville Municipal Swimming Pool last week, has issued a report on the number of lifeguards needed there to satisfy state regulations and it seems to support the conclusions reached by Mayor Taft Hendrixson that only a maximum of three are required when the pool is open to the public. However, Mitzi Medley, the environmentalist, suggested that it would be a good idea, though not required, to have an attendant assigned to help control patron traffic at the slides.
Tony Poss, operator of the city pool and golf course, said he requested the environmentalist make a visit to the pool in an effort to clear up the controversy. "I did request for the lady to come and she came from Crossville. She came down and looked at our pool and said that we were required to have three lifeguards. But the first year we were here, we had one inspector to come in and he said we were required to have three lifeguards at all times in the chairs and that if we didn't have three lifeguards, he would shut down the pool so that's the reasoning behind the lifeguards. He also said we were required to have one extra guard for every twenty five pool bathers that come in so that's what we did last year," said Poss.
"This year, the health inspector came in, and we have to do what they tell us to do. She told us the same thing, that we had to have three lifeguards in the chairs and one for every twenty five bathers, so that's why we have scheduled our lifeguards the way we have. So everything was kind of up in the air with the mayor coming up with these state regulations so I requested somebody above our health inspector to come in and she came from Crossville. She inspected the pool and said we were only required one for every twenty five bathers and after fifty one, it was three lifeguards. So that's the third opinion we've had. We just wanted something in writing telling us for sure what we need to do," said Poss.
In her report, Medley wrote "I visited the pool for consultation and discussed lifeguard requirements."
She further wrote the following:
"(1) lifeguard is required when 1-25 bathers are in the pool"
"(2) lifeguards are required when 25-50 bathers are in the pool"
"(3) lifeguards are required per pool square footage when 51 or more bathers are present" (Rule 1200-23-5-.02 (3) (a) 1" (This rule states as follows: Safety: Lifeguards shall be present at Type A Pools in accordance with the following square footage schedule:
1,800 to 3,000 (1 lifeguard)
3,001 to 6,000 (2 lifeguards)
6,001 to 9,000 (3 lifeguards)
9,001 to 12,000 (4 lifeguards)
Mayor Hendrixson says Smithville has a Type A Pool which is about 7,800 square feet.
State regulations specify what constitutes a slide under definition (1200-23-5-.01 (58) "Water slides or Water Flumes" mean inclined troughs that convey patrons in a stream of water ending in a pool. Under rule 1200-23-5-.02 (3) (a) 5. "Type E pools shall have an attendant or lifeguard on duty at all times at the point patrons/swimmers enter the water."
While Smithville has slides, the pool is not Type E, therefore, according to Medley, it doesn't require a fourth lifeguard to monitor the slides. However, she wrote that such an attendant would be helpful to prevent entrapment inside the slides. "I also discussed the slide at the pool. Per definition (1200-23-5-.01 (58), the slide is NOT a permitable Type E pool subject to attendant/lifeguard requirements of rule 1200-23-5-.02 (3) (a) 5. However, due to the enclosed nature of the slide and the presence of water streaming inside the slide, and that the slide turns, an attendant, although NOT REQUIRED, per se, would control the patron traffic and prevent any possible entrapment of doubled children possibly face down in the water," she wrote.
Poss said since the city is only going to pay for three lifeguards, he is footing the bill right now for another guard to monitor the slides. "We looked at the slides and she (environmentalist) recommended that we have one extra attendant, a guard or somebody there to help keep the pool safe. That's all we're wanting is to keep the pool safe for everyone. Right now we are paying out of our own pocket, to keep the slides safe. We've been out of pocket for the last week, just trying to keep it safe for everyone coming in to use the pool," said Poss.
Poss said his lease calls for the city to bear all pool expenses and it doesn't specify how many lifeguards he can have, although aldermen have recently voted to fund no more than three at a time while the pool is open. "According to the contract there is no limit. No maximum or minimum, no hours of operation. Before they did their budget, I requested five lifeguards. I told them what they made per hour and the next thing I knew, we were only allowed three," He said.
Altogether, Poss said there are nineteen life guards but he doesn't use them all. "The city has employed nineteen lifeguards, but we don't work nineteen. We are abiding with what the city requested after they finally gave us notice that they are only going to pay for three. Still, to date, we've not had anything in writing telling us what we are required to do. We got a phone call last Wednesday, telling us we could only work three. As of today, I still don't have anything in writing or in my contacts with city officials telling us what we're supposed to do but we are doing what they are requesting us to do, trying to get along with the city and make everything right," said Poss
Still, Poss said on days when the pool is extremely busy, its difficult for just three lifeguards to have to monitor such large crowds. "When we get a busy day with 250 plus swimmers, its very stressing on these lifeguards to have to watch that many kids and the liability is unreal," said Poss. The guards also have to rotate stations often, which Poss said can create inconveniences. "They are required to rotate every so often. That's how they are trained. We rotate stations so they are not looking at the same area of the pool for hours at a time, getting bored with what they're doing. That way they're keeping their eyes and minds fresh," said Poss. "I order for these lifeguards to rotate, and when they rotate we have to shut parts of the pool down, just so they can take a break. We try to do this every twenty minutes. I don't feel like it is fair to the people who pay their money to come in and use the pool only to have it shut down most of the day," he said.
With a recent pay dispute over lifeguards apparently settled now, Poss said he is hoping for more cooperation from city hall. "Lifeguards are up to date on their hourly wages. We are employing three lifeguards right now. Until we can get this issue resolved, we are taking care of the slides, the deep end, and the other chair as best we can. We're just wanting a little help from the city and more cooperation. We're willing to work with the city. We want to make it right. We want to give something to the people they can enjoy," said Poss.