JACKSON CENTER — The future of the Jackson Center Pool was discussed during a special meeting of the Jackson Center Pool and Parks Committee Thursday in council chambers.
About 30 local residents of all ages showed up for the meeting indicating the level of concern associated with the potential pool closing was high. In opening the meeting Village Administrator Bruce Metz expressed his appreciation for all those in attendance.
“Wow, this is the biggest crowd we’ve had in the council chambers in a long, long, time. When we have to bring out extra chairs and set them up I know we have good attendance! Thank you all for coming I appreciate everyone showing up and your input is really needed to help us move forward on this issue,” Metz said.
The subject of not opening the pool this year came up at Monday’s council meeting when Metz shared concerns about a shortage of lifeguards. Metz noted ideally they needed about 10 to 12 lifeguards to fully staff the pool based on the current hours of operation but at present only had four. He said he called other local municipalities and learned many of them are having the same issues. The prospect of closing pool was noted in the village council report published in the Sidney Daily News where Metz announced the special meeting would be held.
Metz brought those in attendance up to date on what had transpired since Monday’s council meeting.
“At present we still have only four lifeguards out of the minimum of 10 needed but things are looking up,” said Metz. “A young man who is a lifeguard at Wapakoneta just confirmed he is looking for more hours to work and will be joining our team.
“I also have two or possibly three from New Bremen who are also looking for extra hours of employment so that brings us up to eight and our current staff of lifeguards has been busy trying to recruit some of their friends and it looks like we will have at least 10 if not more if all goes well,” Metz said, who shared his figures depend on whether or not everyone who has shown interest follows through with their intentions.
Metz recapped the history of the pool and shared a PowerPoint presentation with information about the pool and alternative options.
“The Park and Pool Committee was formed in 1961 and solid plans for constructing a new village pools finally came to fruition in 1967-68. The cost for building the pool which opened in 1969 was $150,000.00 which seems unbelievable by today’s standards but it was a lot of money back then,” said Metz. “Next year will be the 50th anniversary for the pool and while our problems seem to be remedied for a while, it must be noted that we still face a lot of challenges with keeping the pool open in the future.
“Last year we spent over $20,000 in repairs, a bigger portion of that was replacing the electrical service to the facility as well as doing some major repairs in the gutters and walls of the pool where water was leaking out. Now we are faced with the fact more repairs will be needed in the walls along with the possibility of needing to put a permanent rubber liner in to prevent future water loss which can be very costly when things get bad enough. We’ve already spent over $10,000.00 getting ready for this year,” Metz said.
Metz was then asked that if all the necessary changes and repairs were made at what point would the pool start paying for itself.
“The pool has never been a money-making proposition and never will be. It’s something that was built and maintained for the good of our community, for our residents and those living nearby to enjoy and promote a positive community spirit and a healthy activity. That said, if there was a way to divide the financial investment by the positive effects the pool has always had, I’m sure it would be deemed a bargain and a great asset over time,” he said.
Village Fiscal Officer Bev Wren said there are a lot of out-of-town people using the pool.
“We have experienced a lot of business with people renting the pool in the off hours for pool parties,” said Wren. “Pool parties are typically held in the evening after the normal hours from 7 to 9 p.m. There is a fee of $120 with a maximum of 50 people allowed to swim.
“We also have a lot of people coming here from outside Jackson Center to buy memberships and use our pool; some from as far away as Lima and Marysville. Reasons range from our pool not being so crowded to people liking the friendly atmosphere here and the home-town attitude of our employees and local residents,” Wren said. “We even have a few residents that seldom go swimming but buy memberships to help keep the pool open.”
When asked for more input, overall comments from those attending were quite favorable and supported keeping the pool open.
Bill Reichert, superintendent of Jackson Center School, attended the meeting and said he saw many of the same challenges while growing up in Dayton, Ohio.
“As options for things to participate in grew during the summer, so did the decline in students using the pools. Many of the smaller pools in Dayton eventually closed and alternatives like ‘splash pads’ or spray units were installed for kids to play in; they are motion activated, inexpensive to operate, and do not require a lifeguard,” said Reichert. “Though very popular for youngsters it’s not for the older kids or teenagers and that is where the problem lies. It’s next to impossible to have something for everyone unless you are willing to absorb the cost of doing so, you just have to look at what is most popular and will get the most use and go from there. I think a splash pad would be great in the new park and would get a lot of use, as for the pool, tonight’s crowd indicates it’s still very popular as well.”
JC pool lifeguard Emme Farley agreed with Reichert noting times have changed.
“As a lifeguard I can honestly say it’s not easy to get certified,” said Farley. “It is kind of expensive and takes a lot of time, hard work, and dedication. It was not as easy as I thought it would be and requires a lot of responsibility. There’s going to all the classes, following through with training, and showing up for work to being confident and qualified to get the job done if needed. And, after that you still need to get recertified every two years and that is another added expense.
“I have talked to some of my friends about becoming a lifeguard and some are very interested but not everyone has the money to get certified and for some getting to classes at the YMCA or Honda is next to impossible if they can’t drive or do not have transportation. I also don’t think most people realize how busy our summers are and how hard it is to budget our time. Some students are taking extra classes in preparation for college and there are other activities like sports that have to be worked in along with summer jobs, and the usual commitments in life, it’s a lot to keep up with,” Farley said.
Mayor Scott Klopfenstein noted that perhaps an alternative could be established to make it easier for those interested to get training and certification.
“Maybe we can look into getting someone to come to our pool and do lessons here, that would open a door of opportunity, lessen the burden of travel to classes and encourage participation. We may even be able to find a way to reimburse the students for the cost of certification at the end of the season if they meet certain performance and attendance criteria,” said Klopfenstein.
The conversation continued and Metz and the Pool and Parks Committee were pleased with all the positive input and questions. In closing Metz, the mayor and committee again shared their enthusiasm and thanks all those in attendance for coming.
“While we have a few problems here, part of them have already been address by people stepping up and working together to get the job done and I am grateful for all those who helped and are continuing to help us keep the ball rolling, thank you,” Metz said. “As noted earlier, anyone having further comments, questions, or advice is welcome to stop by the village office or give us a call at 937-596-6314. All input is welcome and will be considered and we look forward to another fun summer here in Jackson Center. Further information on the upcoming pool season will be shared at the next council meeting if not before.”
Council will hold a special meeting Monday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss numerous items. The meeting is being held in place of the meeting that would be held on Memorial Day, May 28.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News