Contested Waters

By on July 26, 2017

Residents: Eliminate or significantly increase day-pass price at Ephrata Community Pool

Reoccurring concerns over the behavior of non-membership visitors to the Ephrata Community Pool highlighted a packed meeting Monday at borough hall.

Many of the 30-plus residents pressed Community Services Committee members to eliminate or significantly increase the price for day passes available for public purchase.

Residents said there’s a direct correlation on lower member attendance, off 11 percent last year, and a jump in general admission passes which were up 13 percent.

There were 3,562 fewer member visits in 2016 and more than 2,400 more day pass visitors.

Still, revenues for the pool were up about 16 percent last year as the pool took in more money from daily general admission, $158,789, than from membership fees, $149,283.

The committee, comprised of councilman Tim Barr, Tracy Roseberry, and Greg Zimmerman, listened to residents recount frustrating experiences at the pool – especially on weekends.

“Change it to members-only and begin marketing that now,” said Steve Heffner of King Street, “let people know this is how it’s going to be in the coming year. Otherwise this pool is going to become a sweltering cesspool of nonsense.”

Many of the residents agreed with Heffner, applauding his opinions.

The same problems were talked about last year, Heffner said.

Now it’s time for action, he said.

“To subject the tax-paying people to those behaviors after a year of talking about this is sufficient,” Heffner said. “It’s time to get the job done.”

But Robert Mellinger said a “members-only” policy would exclude some community members who want to come out only occasionally.

“You built it and they came,” said Steve Ludwig of Martin Avenue, adding that continual capacity crowds are too much of a good thing.

“Make day passes ridiculously high,” Ludwig suggested as a crowd reduction measure.

Council Vice-President Tom Reinhold asked for some input from the pool managers at the next meeting on the problems that currently swirl around the community pool.

“I’ve been told by management that we have less issues this year, but why are memberships declining? Why are we losing families?” Reinhold asked.

Reinhold believes the weekend day-pass visitors are to blame for much of the troubling behavior at the pool.

“They feel entitled, like it’s their pool and we’re just here,” Reinhold said.

Better documentation of guests’ identification is sorely needed, Reinhold said.

“If we’re going to keep day passes, we have to keep better records, or else, how do we keep bad actors from returning?” Reinhold asked.

Larry Buehler of Windsor Drive received applause from the other residents when he advocated getting rid of the day pass policy and making the pool members only.

“The sign says ‘Ephrata Community Pool’ and that’s how we want to keep it, not the Ephrata Public Pool,” Buehler said. “Change it, and if anyone wants to come for a day, they have to be sponsored by a member.”

Hiring a constable to patrol the grounds over the weekends has helped to defuse some problems, according to Jim Summers, executive director of the Ephrata Recreation Center, which manages the pool for the borough.

In a recent interview, Summers said pool management has noticed a “decrease in behaviors” this year, due to the security presence.

But a number of people said they were appalled that an armed officer was even needed for their community pool.

“I’ve never been to a pool where there’s been a constable,” Ludwig said. “It’s one thing to have security, but seeing someone there with a gun…”

Jen Carroll said she and her husband recently moved into the district and this is their first summer going to the pool.

“I was told that we wouldn’t want to go there on a weekend,” Carroll said. “When we got there, there’s a guy standing there with a gun…why is that? At our community pool?”

Dan Campbell of Duke Street has a son and daughter who lifeguard at the pool.

Campbell cited a list of problems at the pool, due primarily to weekend visitors, he said. That included people drinking alcohol next to children playing and women’s bathrooms so filthy they even included feces on the walls.

“Are we a community pool or a free-for-all?” Campbell asked. “Let’s get rid of the visitors and make it ‘members only.’ “ Campbell also received applause.

“We shouldn’t need to have a constable at a public pool,” Campbell said. “People say ‘it’s great that we have a constable now’ but no, we need to solve these problems. Raise the rates and make it members only.”

Weekend visitors routinely ignore lifeguard’s warnings, Heffner said. With only four lifeguards on duty, they are spread thin when crowds are heavy at the pool, he said.

Too much of the lifeguards’ time is spent trying to discipline guests, while they need to be watching the pool, he said.

“I’m not faulting the lifeguards,” Heffner said. “But either more staff needs to be hired or the day pass price has to be raised.”

Tracy Robinson of Lincoln Avenue suggested the lifeguards get some help.

“A lot of the lifeguards are kind of young and they need someone there to help them,” Robinson said. “They need more adults to back them up.”

Many out-of-town weekend visitors have no respect for the pool, Heffner said, and their actions show it, like beer cans being found on the property when alcohol is expressly forbidden.

While coolers brought onto pool property are checked for contents, it seems they are not being checked efficiently enough, Heffner added.

Summers confirmed that two incidents of alcohol on the property were noted this year so far.

Mike Onderko of West Sunset Avenue said trash left by weekend visitors, especially on Vine Street, was disgusting, and included toddler “swim diapers.”

Onderko was in favor of having a constable at the pool, and offered his own services as a security guard.

“More of a security presence would help to control these issues,” Onderko said.

Onderko said he doesn’t feel comfortable bringing his granddaughter to the pool.

“It’s a shame because it’s a beautiful facility,” Onderko said.

“The lifeguards really need to be focused on what’s going on in the pool,” Onderko added. “I hear a lot of ‘stop’ and ‘no,’ but few whistles.”

What exactly is going on in the pool?

Two residents, Lynn Reinhold of Highland Avenue, and Patrice Mull of Lincoln Heights Avenue, told the committee they’ve seen visitors behaving in a sexually inappropriate manner.

“There are people nearly having relations in the pool,” Lynn Reinhold said. “I’ve seen it happen more than once and it’s not acceptable; something has to change.”

Reinhold also said it was difficult to bring kids to the pool because of the “tremendous” amount of swearing going on.

Mull said she rarely goes to the pool on weekends anymore because of issues such as noise and trash and guests doing whatever they like, while ignoring the lifeguards.

“If they trash the pool, then they don’t come back; that should be the policy,” Mull said. “We’re a welcoming community, but they need to be accountable for their behavior.”

Lisa Stauffer of Akron said last year’s pool season “left a bitter taste in the mouths of a lot of people.”

But this year, she’s noticed some positive changes, Stauffer said, and believes that having the constable at the pool is a big help.

Summers attended the committee meeting, but said he had no comment to make on the pool’s issues or policies at this time.

The next Community Service Community meeting will be held Monday, August 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the Borough Hall. The public is invited to attend.

Staff writer Patrick Burns contributed to this story.

2 Comments

  1. Kary Peters

    July 26, 2017 at 10:39 am

    My suggestions, have the excellent local police department walk through the pool area several times a day as needed. Increase guards and have them stand at various places on the deck, not just up on the chairs, and most of all, quickly and decisively, enforce the rules.

  2. Lynn

    July 26, 2017 at 11:24 am

    I’m a newer resident of the borough, and have a membership for my children and I. The woman I met(and my children befriended hers) the first day we attended warned us of how bad the weekends were. They’re pretty bad, though we’ve only gone one Saturday and one Sunday. I didn’t noticed the armed constable, thankfully. One thing I -have- noticed in the 15 or so times we’ve been to the pool, is how inconsistently the rules are enforced, and how some lifeguards are a good deal more on it than others. I have witnessed lifeguards sleeping on their post, despite rotation every like, 15 minutes?

    I also think it’s a parent problem, however. Most parents don’t watch their kids, they’re sleeping on a chair while their kids are running around unchecked.

    I don’t feel raising day pass prices is effective, if you’re going to do that you may as well just make it membership only(and decrease membership price) Raising day pass prices just tells a whole lot of people(NOT all of which are problematic), that they are not welcome here. Is that what our community is about, only letting people in a higher tax bracket have nice things?

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