The Swimming Pool Nannies Strike
On the program yesterday, we talked about how the swimming pool nannies in some communities are using zoning ordinances to crack down on inflatable backyard pools. My guess is that they'll be requiring alarms for bath tubs next.
After the show, I learned about a swimming pool controversy a lot closer to home.
The Milwaukee Athletic Club (MAC) is a private club with 1400 members located in downtown Milwaukee. The club has an exercise pool that has been in existence since 1917. People who have been members for decades tell me that they have never seen more than 10 people in the pool at any one time. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever drowned.
Actually the biggest controversy involving the pool in recent years was the MAC's decision in 2003 to begin requiring men to wear bathing suits while they swam.
In any event, the MAC's pool is 2250 square feet - and therein lies the current problem.
The State of Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services has recently promulgated regulations (HFS 172.23) which require that any public swimming pool larger than 2000 square feet must have a lifeguard on duty while the pool is being operated. There is no exception for private clubs or pools which are used almost exclusively by adults. There is no provision which allows users to voluntarily waive their right to swim without a lifeguard. The MAC estimates that staffing the pool with lifeguards would cost over $100,000 per year!
GIven the use the pool gets, the MAC has decided that having full time life guards at the pool would be cost prohibitive. Therefore, in order to comply with the silly regulation, the MAC decided to close 251 square feet of the pool (thereby bringing it below the 2000 square foot threshold of the regulation). To retain flexibility for the future however, the MAC intends to use non-permanent measures to close off the 251 square feet.
In another example of our tax dollars at work, this plan has however met with resistance from the City of Milwaukee (which is entrusted with enforcing the regulation). Although not required by the language of the regulation, the City has insisted that the portion needs to be closed off by a permanent barrier!
Here's a copy of a letter from the MAC to the CIty discussing the problem:
May 23, 2008
Department of Neighborhood Services
401 S. 6th Street
Dear Sir or Madam:
The Milwaukee Athletic Club (MAC) was informed on June 20, of a denied variance by DNS regarding HFS 172 (Safety, Maintenance and Operations of Public Pools and Water Attractions), specifically to HFS 172.23 (Lifeguard and attendant placement and staffing requirements).
The State of Wisconsin's Health & Family Services delegated local municipalities (City of Milwaukee) to apply the regulation which includes the requirement for staffing lifeguards in swimming pools of 2,000 sq. and greater. The MAC's swimming pool is 2,250 square feet. We were also informed that closing a portion of the pool to patrons in order to meet the square footage limits is a viable option to the MAC and swimming pool operators in general. The inspector informed the MAC that this closed portion needs to be a permanent barrier.
As stated in HFS 172.23 2. "An operator may close a portion of a pool to patrons in order to meet the square footage limits in Table HFS 172.23-A for lifeguard staffing, except that lifeguard staffing requirements for a pool of 2,000 to 4,999 square feet shall be maintained". It is our interpretation of the state regulation that this closure is not defined as permanent as interpreted by the City of
In response, The MAC will close a portion of the pool (251 sq. feet) to comply with the state regulation regarding square footage limits. This action will be through the use of non-permanent means. Unless the City of
My reaction to all this? What a complete exercise in government foolishness!
First, the MAC Is a private club. Use of the pool is limited to members and their guests. If the members are willing to waive their right to have a lifeguard present while they swim, shouldn't they have that right?
Second, what a stupid regulation in the first place. The pool needs a lifeguard if it's 2001 square feet but not if it's 1999 square feet? Seriously, is the MAC pool really more dangerous at 2250 square feel than it will be at 1999 square feet? Who thinks up these rules?
Third, what's with the City of Milwaukee? Why should it matter whether the barrier blocking off 251 square feet (I presume that they'll close a lane) is permanent or not. If they use non-permanent measures to close off an area and then surreptiously try to add some water back to the pool, I'm sure the City of Mlwaukee will uncover the plan and act accordingly.
Most importantly though, what ever happened to signs that said: "No Lifeguard On Duty: Swim At Your Own Risk"? Shouldn't that be enough to solve the whole problem?
By the way, I'm not a member of the MAC and have never gone swimming in the pool (with or without a bathing suit).