At one time the process of hiring lifeguards, repainting concrete, checking drainage systems and otherwise preparing to open public swimming pools was a virtual rite of spring in our area. Now that has been replaced by local officials declaring they do not have enough money to operate pools during the summer.
Powhatan Point joined the procession this week. Members of Village Council were told Tuesday the community's swimming pool probably will not be in operation this summer.
As usual, money is the problem. Village Clerk-Treasurer Lisa Armann-Blue reported county funding for the Powhatan Park District has been reduced to $9,000. That is far less than needed to open the pool, she explained. Merely to have necessary painting and concrete work done at the facility would cost $7,000, she added.
Village Councilman Jerry Binni noted the pool was a major burden before municipal officials turned it over to the park district. Village government lost between $300,000 and $400,000 on the pool during the time it operated the facility, he said. Armann-Blue, who also is a member of the park district board, added that entity lost $9,000 on pool operations last year.
Throughout the Ohio Valley, public swimming pools have drowned in red ink. Powhatan Point's situation is far from unique.
On Tuesday, the possibility of village financial assistance to the park district was discussed. The matter was tabled.
Again, other communities have faced similar struggles. Just up the river in Steubenville, for example, officials said earlier this year the Belleview Pool probably would close.
But a community effort to keep it open was mounted. Now, it is expected the pool will open June 1.
Public swimming pools - especially in riverfront towns such as Powhatan Point - are not luxuries. Many were established decades ago in reaction to regular drownings in the river. Providing a safe alternative to ponds and streams really does save lives.
Powhatan Point residents who understand that should check with people in other towns and cities where public pools have been saved by creative community campaigns. Though it is late in the year for such a strategy to help in Powhatan Point, it still is possible for a save-the-pool effort to succeed - but only if enough people dive in very soon.