PORTSMOUTH — Low lifeguard numbers and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to last year’s delayed reopening of the McKinley Pool. Now at least the former should not be an issue as the pool is set to open its doors on Memorial Day.
In addition to two investments totaling $50,000, $30,000 through the Capital Investment Budget Program and $20,000 from an anonymous donor, the lifeguard shortages that have plagued McKinley are not expected to be an issue this year.
Through conversations with Shawnee State University swimming coach Gerald Cadogan, a commitment of 10 to 12 lifeguards has been secured and their training will begin this Thursday at the SSU pool. This exceeds the preferred sum of five, which will allow for more scheduling flexibility.
Having originally called for improvements in February, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon spoke with the DailyTimes Monday as to the recent developments surrounding the pool.
“We’re trying to move it along and get it open,” she said inside her Gallia Street Studio. “Last summer, it was a big deal due to COVID and a lack of lifeguards.”
Multiple local groups have now taken roles in improving the sole city pool to Gordon’s pleasing. Among them, Community Action Organization of Scioto County will manage the pool while Main Street Portsmouth will work on its shrubbery. The Unity Project will also add art pieces throughout the coming years.
Gordon said these groups stepping up will go a long way toward her goals of building a close-knit community and a resurgence of the excitement surrounding the former Dreamland Pool. The anonymous donation will go toward the lifeguard training, additional umbrellas and chairs, and other general improvements.
“That’s amazing that this donor has done this,” she said of the unnamed individual, echoing 5th Ward Councilman Edwin Martell’s message from the April 26 city manager’s session. “They recognize how important this pool is to the community, how important any pool is to any community.”
The councilwoman said the pool provides this plus an opportunity of a mini-vacation for families that can’t leave town this summer. She feels it’s a plus for both parents and children wanting to make the most out of time away from school.
“Pools are important and there’s so much that happens for kids during the summer,” she said, herself considering inviting friends and families to Portsmouth this season. “They get to keep their friendships that they forged during the school year and are introduced to a whole new way of interacting.”
Even as the city attempts to get by its fiscal watch status, Gordon said the time has come for a large-scale rejuvenation of the 55-year-old pool. Conversations are ongoing with a Cincinnati-based pool restoration company and the city would still need to craft legislation, but the work could start just after Labor Day.
“Not knowing what that estimate would be, I feel like it’s money well-spent,” she said, these restorations lasting 12 to 15 years hopefully.
What is known at this point is the company will separate the baby bool from the big pool along with installing pump upgrades. New health standards require the baby pool to circulate by itself and not empty into the big pool, standards Gordon said did not exist when McKinley was built.
Beyond a financial investment, Gordon says the pool serves a higher purpose.
“In no community does a pool ever generate enough to sustain itself,” she said, water, lifeguards, chemicals and other expenses preventing this. “There are things that bring-in money and there are other things that you just spend because it’s the quality of life for your citizens. I look at this as something we need to do for our communities. If we’re not a good community, then what’s the point?”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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