Meridian considers closing Velma Young pool this summer

Whitney Downard / The Meridian Star

The Meridian City Council deliberated about closing the Velma Young pool for the summer rather than spend around $30,000 for maintenance.

The City of Meridian may have to close one of two pools during the summer because of $30,000 price tag for maintaining the aging Velma Young Pool.

Doug Stephens, the director of Public Safety, told the Meridian City Council during a work session that the pool needed at least $8,000 in tile work and another $22,000 to fix a filter on the pool's tank system.

In addition to maintenance, Stephens said paying the summer salaries for the lifeguards at the two pools would cost more than $56,000. Lifeguards not only watch non-swimmers but also teach lessons to small groups at a cost of $45 per week per session. 

"We'd need $45,000 to open both pools for just the salaries," Stephens said. "That's not counting the $30,000 for maintenance."

Closing Velma Young for the summer could save approximately $10,000 Stephens said, even with someone transporting children part time to the other pool in Highland Park.

"(The Velma Young) pool has issues where outside water seeps in," Stephens said, highlighting the need to find a long-term solution for the pool. "And if the pump goes out, that's another expense."

Any plan to transport children from one pool to the other would have to consider liability, Stephens said. 

"We've got to have something like (a plan) to cover ourselves for liability purposes," Stephens said, saying the city may require chaperones, age 16 or older, for young children. 

Having a free month, as the pools did last year, strained the capacity of the pools and ability of the lifeguards, Aleshea Jordan, the director of operations for Parks & Recreation, told the council. 

"On a normal day, we might see 40 to 50 kids," Jordan said. "When it's free? It can be more than 100. And one guard can really only handle five-to-six people."

For Tyrone Johnson, the council president and council representative over the Velma Young area, closing the pool temporarily made sense.

"My number one concern is safety. The tile in that pool is not safe at all," Johnson said, saying some children cut their feet on the loose tile. "The pump is not working properly... and I hate to put money into a bad project."

Johnson said that he hoped to someday made the Velma Young pool bigger and better, but admitted it might take more resources than currently available.

"My goal, and I know this is far-fetched, is to have an indoor pool someday," Johnson said. "Somewhere for our senior citizens where we can have lifeguards year-round. A facility for Meridian High School to have their swim team train. Sort of a YMCA at Velma Young." 

Johnson said he felt a facility like that could transform the area, but, at least for this summer, liability remained a bigger issue.

"I'm concerned about the liability but we can definitely provide transportation for those children (at Velma Young)," Johnson said. "We have to have something in place for them."

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