JACKSON CENTER — For over 50 years children and adult residents of Jackson Center could go to the village swimming pool to cool off on hot summer days. Such may not be the case in the near future due to the lack of available lifeguards.
At its Monday meeting, Jackson Center Council members heard a report from Village Administrator Bruce Metz concerning the future of the pool. Metz noted the normal preparations at the pool are nearly complete but they have not set a date for the opening yet because of a shortage of lifeguards.
“We are currently tying up loose ends at the pool but normal maintenance is the least of our worries ,”Metz said. “We started recruiting lifeguards back in February but still do not have the minimum requirement to open the pool. We held a ‘park and pool’ meeting last Thursday to discuss our options; we don’t want to say the pool will be closed for the season yet but we only had five applications for lifeguards and one of those had to drop out leaving us just four and we need eight for all practical purposes.”
Village solicitor Mike Burton asked about the average attendance in the past and if it justified keeping the pool open.
“Attendance was good last year,” said Metz, “and the same can be said for other municipal pools in the area. We are just having trouble finding a way to get qualified lifeguards. We even considered just opening the pool on a Friday-Saturday-Sunday basis but summer weekend activities tend to reduce the amount of people going to the pool on weekends so we probably will not pursue that option.”
Metz also noted the situation at Jackson Center is not unique.
“I called around to see if other local pools are having the same issue and how they are dealing with this problem and found we are all in the same boat. At present Sidney only has 18 of the 24 lifeguards needed, New Bremen is having trouble because several people quit, and the pickings are slim at Botkins as well.”
JC Village Fiscal Officer Bev Wren noted things are not like they were in the past.
“The climate for our kids has changed, everyone is constantly on the go and there is a lot of competition for how the kids spend their time. By mid-July kids working at the pool get tired of it and many have other things to do,” Wren said.
Metz said there is also the issue of parents paying $300 or more to get their kids certified to be a lifeguard.
“That’s a lot of time and money invested and it takes a lot of hours working at the pool just to pay back the money used in getting certified, it puts a damper on the incentive to be a lifeguard,” he said.
Metz noted there will be a special meeting held Thursday at 7 p.m. in the council chambers to allow citizens a chance discuss the problem and see how the public stands on the issue.
“Right now we are not sure about closing the pool but this meeting will give everyone the chance to voice their opinions,” said Metz. “Regardless of how everyone feels, the bottom line is we need more lifeguards and that could very well be the determining factor on how we proceed.
We are also looking into the possibility of closing the pool and installing a ‘splash-pad’ or sprinkler-type setup that is motion activated for the kids to play in at the new park; they are good because a life guard is not needed,” he said. “We can also modify the current pool location to eliminate the pool and put slash pads there as well. They would require a lot less maintenance and a place to cool off in hot weather but obviously will not offer a place to swim.
“I highly recommend anyone who may have an interest in being a lifeguard or keeping the pool open come to this meeting, a lot of how we decide will depend on what the community wants and if we are able to meet their expectations with what we have to work with. We are open to any and all suggestions” Metz said.
Mayor Scott Klopfenstein also shared his sentiments.
“I sure hope we can find a solution to this problem, the people of Jackson Center and the surrounding area have enjoyed this pool for a long, long time and it sure seems like a shame to fill it in at his point when it offers so much to so many,” said Klopfenstein.
In other new business council heard a report from JC Village Police Chief Chuck Wirick about the formation of a fundraiser to help defray costs associated with the canine unit of the police department.
“We are creating a program for our police dog Hero to help offset the expense the cost for food, vet bills, and eventually replacing him when the time comes for him to retire. Hero joined the force four years ago and will be six years old in November,” said Wirick. “He is certified in locating narcotics, tracking, and article searching in the event someone tries to discard or hide evidence during a pursuit or investigation.”
Wirick pointed out that having Hero on the force is a great asset.
“He’s there should we need him and is also a viable deterrent in preventing crime. Regardless of how you slice it we come out ahead and I sure hope the community rallies to help Hero, any and all support will be greatly appreciated,” Wirick said.
Colorworx a local custom shirt fabricator will be making T-shirts to promote the fundraiser. The shirts will be available in sizes toddler-youth for $14 and adult shirts for $16. A limited number will be ready for the Jackson Center Community Days Celebration and if sold out orders for extra T-shirts can be made at that time.
T-shirts can also be purchased at Colorworx LLC by visiting their page on Facebook or email them @ email@example.com. Wirick also noted he is setting up a Facebook page for the fundraiser and a link to the page will be posted very soon on the Village of Jackson Center and Jackson Center Police Department Facebook pages.
In other business council authorized the amendment of an ordinance adopted on Aug. 19, 1998, pertaining to the creation of a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA). The amendment will authorize changes on the village zoning map and what areas will affected by tax abatements. Council also approved an ordinance authorizing adjustments in the annual appropriations of public funding to allow for addition funds received from an Eco-Smart grant application for the city parks, and educational programs at the village school.
Council also authorized the village administrator to enter into contracts with recommended bidders from a letter of recommendation from GPD Group on the five major components needed for the construction of the new electrical substation.
Before going into executive session council heard reports from Village Electrical Superintendent Dave Overman and Council Safety Director Leisha Elchert. Council also heard a report from the administrator on several projects currently underway around the village and plans to prepare for a $1.1 million street renovation for next year.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.