Tony Poss Asks City to Fund More Lifeguards at Swimming Pool

March 11, 2013
Dwayne Page
Construction underway on more restrooms at city pool
City officials view covering to help keep debris out of pool

How many lifeguards are needed at the Smithville Municipal Swimming Pool?

City aldermen may revisit that issue again at the next meeting on Monday, March 18.

During the May 21, 2012 city council meeting, the aldermen voted 3 to 0 to set the pay of the lifeguards at minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for last season and to fund a maximum of three lifeguards per day at fifty eight hours per week for thirteen weeks.

But during a workshop at the club house this past Saturday morning, the tenants of the golf course and swimming pool, Tony and Jeania Poss asked the mayor and aldermen to fund at least one or two more lifeguards this season, renewing a request they made last year. " The board voted last year to only let us have three lifeguards. It was referred to us that the state required three and that's what they (city) were willing to pay for. We don't feel that this is enough for this pool. We've got slides and diving boards. It can be done but it would be a big liability on us, the city, and the lifeguards," said Tony Poss. We've saved four people in the last two years at least and that's because we had the lifeguards there. If we scale back on these guards, it (a tragedy) is going to happen. We get 150-200 people in here sometimes. We've got to have somebody at that slide and the deep end for sure," he said.

"The state says that we only have to have three (lifeguards) but as a parent, we want more than three," said Jeania Poss. "It would be nice if we could have four and possibly five at our discretion. If we have ten people in the pool we won't work all four or five lifeguards," she said.

"I thought what we had approved (last year) was to pay for three per day and anything above that you could have but you would pay for them out of pool receipts," said Alderman Gayla Hendrix.

"We were charging two dollars per person (swimmer) last year and we were paying for that extra lifeguard and sometimes two extra lifeguards (from those receipts)," said Jeania Poss.

"You allowed us to have private parties and we also paid the lifeguard wages for that," added Tony Poss. "We are in no way going to bill the city for private parties that we do. But it helped our pool business last year a whole lot. A lot of people came back and started doing that (private parties) versus going out of town," said Poss.

While the lease apparently gives him the authority to use as many lifeguards as he wants during the daily operation of the pool with the city to pay the wages, Poss still wants more specifics in writing from the city on this and on other issues before the pool season starts so there isn't any confusion. "We need a set of rules of what you expect us to do. What you want us to do and not change the rules every other month. The contract doesn't say anything about how many guards we can employ or how many we have to have here," said Poss. "There's nothing in the contract that says what we can or can't do (concerning lifeguards). But it does say in there that the city will pay all lifeguard wages during all hours of operation. The contract also says both parties have to agree on any kind of changes to that contract. We're not trying to be hard to deal with. What we're asking is to give us a little more help," said Poss.

A state health department environmentalist, after making a visit to the pool last year issued a report on the number of lifeguards needed there to satisfy state regulations. Mitzi Medley reported that only a maximum of three are required when the pool is open to the public. However, she suggested that it would be a good idea, though not required, to have an attendant assigned to help control patron traffic at the slides.

"The state lady came down, wrote a letter to the mayor and advised that it would be better if we had four (lifeguards)," said Poss. She wanted somebody on that slide. We have them stationed at the deep end, at the center, and at the other end of the pool," said Poss.

Jeania Poss said with only three lifeguards on duty at a time, swimmers would have to get out of the pool during times when a lifeguard has to take a break, which is an inconvenience to the swimmers and could increase liability to the tenants and the city. " When you have three lifeguards and one of them comes down for a 10-15 minute break where they rotate to go to the bathroom, you're leaving it wide open (to liability). We could shut down the pool for a break like McMinnville does but they still have guards, guarding the water," she said.

Since the aldermen voted last year on establishing the number of lifeguards at the pool, Alderman Hendrix asked city attorney Vester Parsley if that vote became an amendment to Poss's lease. "These things we voted on, did they become an amendment to this?," asked Alderman Hendrix.

"Technically, they needed to have been signed," answered Parsley.

"Do we redraw the lease to make it more specific?," asked Alderman Hendrix

"It needs to be amended, technically," said Parsley. They (Tony and Jeania) will have to come to the board meeting with these list of things, let the board vote on them and we'll amend the contract. It really wasn't amended (last year). It was only in the minutes," said Parsley.

"I want to get this all laid out and taken care of because there's no reason for him (Poss) to come to every city council meeting all summer long about sweeping the pool and paying lifeguards," she said.

Alderman Hendrix asked Poss if he would rather give up the lease and have the city hire him to manage the golf course and swimming pool. "Would the city be better off to recall the lease and pay a manager to manage the facility?. The city would take in all receipts but pay all expenses, be responsible for the equipment and pay a salary to manage it. Its seasonal. Though there's work to be done in the off season, its feasible you (Poss) could manage this and have a part time business as well. Does that sound like a more logical thing to do to make this place work than what we're doing now?".

"I'm not wanting to give it up," said Poss. "We've got too much time and I've got too much invested in this place," He said.

The pool is expected to open around Memorial Day weekend. Hours will be Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Admission will be $3.00 per person.

Poss is also asking the aldermen to consider allowing them (tenants) to open and close the pool at their own discretion and setting all hours of operation again this year. " The aldermen voted to approve that last year. We just wanted this to be put in writing to us," said Poss.

Currently, the lifeguards have to pay their own certification fees each year which comes to around $175, according to Poss. He is asking the city to consider giving the lifeguards a bonus at the end of the summer to help them recoup some of their out of pocket expense for getting certified. " A lot of these guys don't make $700-800 the whole summer and that (certification expense) comes out of mama and daddy's pocket. At least think about giving them some kind of bonus at the end of the summer to help recoup that money," said Poss.

"I think they (lifeguards) should be responsible for their certification fees," said Alderman Hendrix. "They could get certified and work for you a month and go to McMinnville next month," she said.

"We're saying if they come and quit, they don't get anything back," suggested Jeania Poss . " If they come and work all summer then give them a 20 or 30 dollar bonus," she added.

Meanwhile, the city is building more restrooms facilities for men and women at the pool and showers for swimmers to rinse off.

The city has also purchased a portable chair lift for the physically challenged to give them easier access to the pool in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The chair lift has arrived but has not yet been installed at the pool.

Alderman Tim Stribling asked that a letter be sent to the Langley and Taylor Pool Corporation of Nashville requesting that they come back and fix cracks and other structural defects that have developed in the pool since their repair work during the spring of 2011. The city has a three year warranty and the company is apparently liable for work called for under the contract which was warrantied but not done properly. "They ground the plaster down to concrete," said Tony Poss. "They were supposed to have shot the grade to make the pool level when they brought it back up but that never happened," he said.

Poss also suggested that the city spend some money to upgrade the club house. "The city needs to apply for grants. They need to get what money they can to upgrade this place (club house). There's not been much money spent on this place in years. The roof is falling apart. There's leaks. But we're dealing with it," he said.

Meanwhile senior citizens who use the pool have asked that the city purchase an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) there. "Senior citizens use the pool twice a week. They wanted us to see if the city would buy a defibrillator," said Poss.

The parking lot also needs to be striped according to Poss. "We have had three or four wrecks in the last two years in the parking lot," he said.

Poss further suggested that the city invest some money to promote the city and golf course with roadside signs on Interstate 40. "We have a need for advertising of the city, pool, and the whole general area," said Poss. There is no place on I-40 that emphasizes Center Hill Lake, Smithville, the pool, golf course, or tennis courts. I have checked and you can get four signs (not billboard signs) for $1295 the first year and $527 each year after that," he said.

Looking to the future, Alderman Hendrix said she would like to see the city renovate the club house and maybe add on a small restaurant. "Other club houses have nice restaurants. We have the space to add onto this place to make a little restaurant café, which could be leased to someone. I'd like to see a design and cost estimates to fix this place up and make it look nicer," said Alderman Hendrix.

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