The City of Austin is closing almost 31 pools for one day of the week this summer, which will create a 20% reduction in pool hours for the citizens of Austin and a 20% reduction in swim team training and swim lessons for the kids all summer throughout the city.
The reasons PARD are stating for the cut in hours:
1. improve their ability to perform preventative maintenance and reduce unplanned pool closures
2. increase environmental and operational sustainability and reduce daily lifeguard needs
3. it is a schedule that meets national “Best Practices” for swimming pool operations (No source was sited for the “National “Best Practice” for swimming pool operations”)
More likely the real reason is Budget (though the Aquatics Dept. had a similar budget to last year) and Lifeguard recruitment – both fixable items in a city with a $26+ mil surplus in budget.
Currently they have approx. 500 lifeguards as of Monday, June 8th. They should get another 100 through June. Then they will see a decrease as the lifeguards go on vacation etc towards the end of the summer. In order to staff every pool at the 2014 schedule they would need 750. They only need 600 to staff this summer's schedule with every pool closed one day. Last year or the year before the city let go most of their full time lifeguards so they would not have to pay them benefits, so they are struggling to hire the large number in such a small time since they don't have their normal base of full time lifeguards to start with.
These cuts in pool hours occurred despite the findings in the lengthy (and probably expensive) Aquatic Facilities Need Assessment presented in Oct 2014 to City Council, which stated the below:
What Austinites Said
Throughout all of the various methods of public input, the residents indicated clear and consistent messages as to their priorities. The order varied throughout the different methods, but the top items of importance consistently were:
– Improve restrooms
– Increase the length of the swim season
– Upgrade pool houses/bathhouses
– Provide additional shade
From PARD's statement of: “In addition, it will increase environmental and operational sustainability…”
It would be interesting to know what environmental and operational sustainability increases this would allow for.
For Balcones Pool Schedule and others click here.
– The Water Safety Community attest to the fact that access to guarded swimming reduces the drowning rate in a community. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for kids age 4-17. The strategies that are used to reduce the drowning rate in a community are to provide swim lessons and remind parents that active supervision is their job. It has been shown that when a community closes a guarded pool, the kids will still find a way to swim, which is usually in an unguarded pool or unguarded natural body of water and the drowning rate in the community increases as a result. Reducing the hours and cutting days at the Balcones Pool can have a deadly affect in our community. One child drowning is too many.
– Austin's Pools that house swim teams produce State Level swimmers that compete at the Texas Amateur Athletic Foundation swim competition on an annual basis. Cutting the days and available practice time at these pools will decrease the competitiveness of its swim team and put its swimmers at a disadvantage. A true failure to serve the kids of our community.