More than 70 Pleasantville residents logged in for a virtual town hall meeting last Thursday evening in a last-ditch effort to convince village officials to change their minds and open the municipality’s pool this summer.
For almost two hours, Mayor Peter Scherer, trustees Nicole Asquith and David Vinjamuri and future trustee Paul Alvarez listened to comments, criticisms and ideas on how the pool could operate.
Despite the outpouring of concern, one day later, the board posted an announcement reaffirming its original decision in May.
“This is a difficult choice that we know leaves many in our community disappointed,” the board’s statement read. “However, the safety and public health of our community is paramount. Given all of the factors and challenges involved in operating the Village’s municipal pool during the COVID pandemic, the Board believes this to be the most prudent decision.”
The board announced the pool’s closure more than a month ago because of uncertainty and health risks due to the coronavirus. It recently stirred passion in the community after an online petition, titled “Save the Pool,” was posted by the Pleasantville Swim Team. The petition has attracted more than 500 signatures.
Adding to the discontent was the opening of other area pools, which are required to strictly adhere to guidelines for limited capacity and social distancing.
At last week’s live-streamed meeting, there were numerous suggestions on how to safely open the pool.
“Have you done an analysis in terms of the number of people allowed in the pool at any one time and what it would look like in terms of the actual number of people you allow in?” asked former village trustee Jonathan Cunningham.
Maximum capacity in the main pool and kiddie pool combined is 660 people, according to Scherer.
“The official rule is not more than 50 percent of capacity,” he said. “Theoretically you can have 330 in the pool; in reality it would be far less than that if maintaining the social distance requirement of six feet apart.”
Maintaining that distance in the narrow space on the wooded side of the pool would also be difficult.
“You can have a single person hang out on the deck but a family of five takes up more space,” Scherer explained.
The vast majority of complaints received about the closure were from families who wanted the pool for their kids to use, Scherer said.
“I would love to take my kids to the pool and have them play with their friends,” said Trustee Nicole Asquith. “But it would be hard to tell my daughter that she has to wear a face mask and she couldn’t play with her friends.”
Resident Jim Kennedy asked the board to consider special programming to regulate the capacity.
“The mornings could be reserved for fitness swimming or lessons and later be for open swim with time slots,” he suggested.
However, most community pools have canceled swim team meets, training and lessons, Scherer said.
“A number of pools that have allowed fitness restrict one swimmer to a lane and every other lane is used,” he said. “If we were to open the pool mostly for fitness and lane swimming, I think we would have an enormous uprising.”
Troy Tassier, a Pleasantville Swim Team board member, said he was concerned that the pool closure would force older youths to flock to area beaches.
“How is that safer that having them stay in town with a little more supervision at our own pool?” Tassier asked. “I still think we can limit the capacity in the pool where it is much more manageable than other places.”
Trustee David Vinjamuri said he would support opening the pool if guidelines were strictly followed while calculating the correct number of members and assigning a price tag that would make sense. Vinjamuri said he would support opening the pool if two violations of safety protocols triggered a loss of privileges without a refund.
Superintendent of Recreation & Parks Matt Trainor pointed to the challenge of training lifeguards and pool staff to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines, all of whom are 16 to 25 years old.
“You may have observed (in the past) how many times during the summer a patron notices a lifeguard is not paying attention. That’s an issue we deal with,” Trainor said. “I’m concerned about the backlash the guards get when they ask people to keep social distancing. This pandemic poses many problems.”
Pleasantville residents are able to swim at the Mount Pleasant pool complex in Valhalla starting this week. Check out the Recreation & Parks Department page on the town’s website at www.mtpleasantny.com.