Members seek  immediate change in  pool visitor policy

By on July 20, 2016

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“We have a level of expectation we hold ourselves to and we want to see that level of expectation held to everyone who visits.”

     Steve Heffner 

Ephrata Community Pool member

 

By Patrick Burns

Monday’s Ephrata Borough Public Safety Committee meeting attracted current and former Ephrata Community Pool members, parents and children.

The meeting included lifeguards,  elected officials and something members see all too often at the pool these days:  a uniformed police presence.

What united the group Monday was a deep concern over the elevated stress levels caused by weekend (daily fee) visitors at the dynamic pool, which underwent a nearly $2 million upgrade four years ago.

The  group of about 25 community members who filled a meeting room at Ephrata Borough Hall essentially continued a discussion from  the July 11 borough council meeting that spotlighted  disruptive behavior at the pool.

And while everyone acknowledged the problem, not everyone is agreeable on the sense of urgency to fix it, said Lynn Reinhold, who urged people on social media to attend Monday’s meeting .

“The concerns brought to the meeting were great and are issues that need to be addressed immediately,” said Reinhold, whose husband Tom Reinhold is a borough councilman and public safety committee member.

Visitors to the pool have increased annually since the new pool opened in 2012 in  its 81st year of operation.

The new features included a zero-depth entry, infant and children interactive water features, poolside climbing walls, a six-lane 25-meter racing pool, water slides ranging from seven to 17 feet, a renovated bathhouse, and a new snack bar.

Members have charged that too many weekend visitors have violated rules prohibiting alcohol and  threatened pool employees using  foul language and physical aggression.

Elizabeth Pilsner said a weekend visitor drank straight out of vodka bottle while sitting next to her two children.

“We’re members, but we don’t go on weekends anymore,” she said.

Members say visitors routinely ignore posted rules such as wearing clothing in the pool and police have been called when guests refuse to leave the water when directed by lifeguards.

Ephrata Police Chief Bill Harvey reported that police this year have responded to 15 calls to the pool.

Those calls resulted in the filing of eight official reports and five arrests.

Police arrested three males and two females  —two  from Ephrata and three from Lancaster City.

Total reports logged by police from calls to the pool between 2013 and 2015 have averaged less than seven per year.

This year’s total of eight reports, which matches the high total from 2013, comes with six weeks remaining in the season.

“I also have a concern that some borough employees and council members and a few others don’t really see and understand the urgency,” said Lynn Reinhold.

There were a number of suggestions lobbed to public safety committee members Mel Weiler, Linda Martin, and Tom Reinhold, as well as Ephrata Rec Director Jim Summers, who oversees the swim club.

Ideas floated to curtail poor behavior from non-members who’ve packed the pool on recent weekends included raising daily fees, hiring a weekend constable to police the pool, designating    members-only weekends, and requiring non-members to be sponsored by a member who’d accept responsibility for their guest.

Tracy Robinson said she quit the pool following several  bad experiences last year including an incident where she stepped up to  protect a female lifeguard being verbally abused by a group of non-members.

“I can go somewhere else to see people treated badly,” said Robinson, who suggested launching a pool version of a town-watch program where members self-police the club.

Robinson echoed the sentiments of others in suggesting  that officials raise daily fee rates significantly.

“It needs to stop,” she said. “If you’re going to have people coming in from outside the community they’re going to have to pay a lot more.”

Currently, general admission rates are $11 per day. The rates, which are reduced to $8 for students, $6 for senior citizens and $4 for preschoolers, is further reduced after 5 p.m.

Steve Heffner noted that high-school-aged life guards are not equipped nor trained to be security officers.

The pool — which is owned by the borough and operated by the Ephrata Rec Center —should hire “David Hasselhoff” type guards, he said.

While he conveyed confidence in the teen guards to protect his children swimming in the pool, “facing down six or eight people you don’t know is an unacceptable challenge” for the young pool staffers.

“We have a level of expectation we hold ourselves to and we want to see that level of expectation held to everyone who visits,” Heffner said.

But in the end, the committee, which does not set rates or approve expenditures,  and was limited Monday to a one-hour meeting due to scheduling conflicts with other meetings, took no official action.

Still, committee members said after the meeting they would try to make formal suggestions to the community services committee which meets on Monday (July 19).

Borough Manager Bob Thompson said emergency funding, such as financing private security at the pool on weekends, could be available in the general fund if approved by borough council.

Ephrata Borough Council doesn’t meet again until Aug. 8.

Council could hold an emergency meeting, which must be approved and advertised, to institute changes more quickly.

Summers, who acknowledged pool employees are on higher alert and now check coolers coming into the pool,   said it’s unlikely any changes — even   instituting members-only weekends — would occur in less than two weeks.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and  staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Social media editor and staff writer for Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.

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