Proverbial ‘Help Wanted’ sign still up at public pool

The outdoor facilities at the Payette Public Pool are pictured on July 14. The facilities remain closed, pending implementation of protocols for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, as well as the the hiring of lifeguards and a pool manager.

PAYETTE — Nine months after COVID-19 blew Payette residents’ swimming plans out of the water, the front doors to the Payette Public Pool remain closed to the public. At the Payette City Council’s regular meeting on Monday, an agenda request by Payette resident Linda Hartman sought to figure out why plans to reopen the pool have not moved forward.

In her agenda request, Hartman asked to address the agenda on revising the job description for the city’s pool manager job posting. The position is a requirement by Southwest District Health as part of reopening the pool. Hartman participated in the meeting remotely via Zoom, as meetings at the council chambers remain closed to physical public attendance.

“I was looking at pool  manager jobs in Nampa and at [their] YMCA; Nampa pool manager, their requirement is a high school graduate or GED,” said Hartman. “Nampa’s ten times bigger than us. The other thing about the YMCA, their job postings are the same nationwide. They’ve got a lot of certifications they want you to have, but those are all doable through the Red Cross.”

Payette is requiring a bachelor’s degree for the open pool manager job. Hartman recommended amending the job posting to recommend such a degree rather than requiring it.

“I care about the rest of our town as well, I love it here,” Hartman added. “I just would think that we would not have to have such stringent requirements, not even close to towns ten times our size and it’s been up there for … three months now and we still haven’t hired anybody.”

Williams did not elaborate on hiring progress for the position, but explained that there were lifeguard positions needing to be filled as well.

Hartman noted that while Payette’s pool has not reopened since the pandemic began, most other pools in the Treasure Valley have. 

“This is the only thing that these kids have to go to, a lot of them … I’d love to see us get our pool open,” added Hartman, saying that an “army of volunteers” is available to get the pool going again.

An exception is Boise, whose Parks and Recreation officials kept pools closed this summer.

Williams said he put forward the Bachelor’s requirement because he seeks to hire a recreation director to do more for the city than simply run the pool.

“[They] will oversee the pool and other things that we’d like to develop,” Williams replied. “Does it need to have a degree? I don’t know if it does, but we have interviewed some people that  don’t have degrees and some that do have degrees. I think your comments are valid, but my opinion is you’re more focused just on the pool instead of what our thoughts are as to where we want to go with the Recreation Department.”

Councilor Daniel Lopez, however, brought up that the city’s fiscal year 2020-21 budget only made room for a regular pool manager.

“We didn’t budget for a rec director and a pool manager,” said Lopez. “That’s a lot of expense.”

Councilor Ray Wickersham added, “I can see somebody in charge of recreation, but they need to be working with the county [Recreation Department].”

Councilor Lori Steiniker, a teacher at the Payette School District, agreed that the education requirement was hurting the city’s efforts to reopen the pool.

“There are so many talented people that don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and I think having that required is … really limiting the applicants we get. We need to have this pool open,” said Steiniker, adding that a local member of the U.S. Navy had to go to Caldwell to do their aquatic training due to the closure in Payette. “We need to use our community and make this happen.”

Councilor Kathy Patrick noted that operations at Caldwell’s public pool, within Southwest District Health boundaries, could provide clues as to how to reopen safely.

“It’s all part of what makes this town great,” said Patrick. “Take away that and we’re starting to  diminish our greatness … little by little.”

Williams emphasized that whichever efforts are made to reopen the pool need to be approached with “baby steps.”

As this was not an action item on the meeting agenda, no action was taken during this meeting.

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