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04-21-04 Lack of money and staff may close Rockford pool

By Timothy Cox

  ROCKFORD -- Facing a severe labor shortage and ongoing budget problems, village officials might close the town swimming pool if the situation does not improve.

  Councilors in recent months have hinted the pool is becoming too much of a financial burden, although no one called for its closure. That changed at Tuesday night's regular meeting, where an impromptu discussion on the pool turned into a spirited debate on whether to close the facility.
  Village officials are having trouble hiring enough staff to run the pool this summer. Council member Amy Joseph, who has spent time during the off season trying to find staff and trying to come up with ways to make the pool more profitable, told council members only four lifeguards have been hired. The town also is having a hard time finding someone to fill the manager's job.
  Three lifeguards are required by law for the pool to be open and running the pool for the whole summer with only four guards would be nearly impossible, council members agreed. Joseph had selected someone to fill the manager's spot but the person turned the job down because it requires too many hours per week.
  The pool is open about 56 hours per week and the manager gets paid only $300 weekly. When the manager could not be at the pool last summer, council member Randy Gutierrez often volunteered his time.  A couple of council members offered a quick fix for the problems at the pool.
  "It loses money every year. If it's losing money, I'd close it," council member Greg Pontsler said.
  "I don't think we're going to have to close it," council member Nick Sell said, adding he believes the pool will close itself down through lack of staffing and lack of public interest. "Let's leave it closed for a year. If people want it open, we'll hear about it."
  Council members agreed to decide at the May 4 regular meeting whether the pool will be opened this year.
  Even Joseph, who has devoted much time to the pool, sounded open to debate on the issue in light of the town's budget problems and the pool's annual losses of around $10,000.
  Additional money will need to be spent and more work done on minor improvements and annual maintenance before the pool could be opened for the season, village worker Tom Beahrs said.
  In other business Tuesday, council members:
   Awarded a contract to Ben Johnson, of Fostoria, to clean, wax and paint the village's old water tower for $24,920. Two other bids both exceeded $40,000 for the work.
   Learned the town has been given a 1960s-era fire truck that the village originally bought for the fire department. Councilors talked about selling or donating the vehicle but made no decisions.


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