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Better pool management is a necessity

Last Thursday, the Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi announced it had terminated the organization’s contract to manage the Natchez community swimming pool just one week before the pool’s scheduled opening.

Turns out the contract for which Adams County residents pay approximately $100,000 per year, had actually expired in March. Adams County attorney Scott Slover said the contract had not been renewed because recreation commission members had not been able to get a quorum for a meeting to hash out terms of a new contract.

So, after two months of operation without a contract, the YMCA “out of an abundance of caution,” Slover said, decided to terminate the contract.

Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission members, however, were able to garner a quorum for a Friday afternoon meeting at which more information on the situation came to light.

Apparently, the recreation commission was behind on making payments to the YMCA by either eight months or by a couple of months, depending upon whom you ask. At any rate the recreation commission was behind on the books. Meanwhile, the YMCA’s aquatics manager had to take a leave of absence some weeks back due to a family illness and had been out for several weeks.

During that time, pool management — day-to-day cleaning, maintenance, adding chemicals, etc. — was not being done, said recreation commission member Jimmy Ware.

Upon learning of the neglect Ware and fellow recreation commission member Ralph Daniels and then-YMCA employee Faye Minor immediately began maintaining the day-to-day pool operations, cleaning and adding chemicals, etc.

While it is commendable Ware, Daniels and Minor, stepped in to maintain the pool, it also is hard to blame the YMCA for not maintaining the pool since the management contract had expired in March and the YMCA had apparently not been paid for at least a couple of months.

In my discussions with people involved in the pool situation — both officials and casual observers — I’ve heard a lot of off-the-record opinions. Some people think the YMCA is too strict with the rules, that fun swim time hours of operation were too few last year and that private (for profit) swimming lessons were eating up too much of the pool’s fun swim time.

Some people even complained that people who could not show that they had passed a swim test had to wear life vests in and around the pool. (For the record, the life vest rule, to me, seems necessary.)

Another group of folks, say the rules are necessary and that Adams County and the City of Natchez do not need to be in charge of the pool’s daily management and operations. That is why the city and county contracted with the YMCA to manage the pool in the first place, they say.

I agree, the pool needs professional management.

I commend recreation commission members for their service to the community. However, the volunteer commission should not be in charge of overseeing management of the pool. They could not even get a quorum to come to the table to work out terms on a contract renewal for the YMCA, much less pay the bills on time.

Perhaps the city and county should rethink the role of the volunteer recreation commission in overseeing management of the pool. After all, city and county residents have a lot invested in that pool, and we deserve to have it not only properly maintained and operated but also properly managed so everyone can get the most out of it and to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Proper management and oversight of the community pool is a big job and is probably asking too much of an all-volunteer commission.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com or 601-445-3540.