Fate of Rhoads pool season still unknown
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor, [email protected]
A group of people who want to see Corydon’s public pool open this season took advantage of a special meeting of the Harrison County Parks board last Wednesday evening to drum up support and to ask more questions about its fate for 2021.
However, a decision about whether the May & Joe Rhoads Memorial Pool would be available was no closer to being made than it was at the parks board last regular meeting on Feb. 24.
Brett Stilwell, who has two children compete on the Hammerheads swim team, which uses the Rhoads pool as its home base, said there seems like there could be a practical solution which would allow the pool to open.
Use of the pool this season is in jeopardy because its bathhouse has been set up as a COVID-19 test site. A contract gives the health department use of the site through June. Park officials have said they would need to resume access of the site at least four to six weeks in order to prepare the pool for opening.
“Is testing still needed at that level?” Stilwell asked.
Parks board member Greg Reas, who is also the county’s Emergency Management Agency director, said the health department still conducts a good number of tests there.
“There’s a real good possibility this is going to go past July,” he said, adding that at some point vaccinations for the coronavirus will be given at the location.
“Why is this the site?” Stilwell asked. “The kids use this pool.”
Katie Forte, president of the board for the Hammerheads, said she and others attended the March 3 health department board meeting, where they were told health officials would have preferred to use the government center for testing/vaccinations.
That led to an explanation by parks board members about how testing sites have to meet certain requirements and several locations in the county were ruled out. While the government center might have been the preferred location, they said, there were issues that made it unsuitable, including county employees and the public conducting business there could not be kept from co-mingling with those coming to be tested for the virus.
After the prior parks board meeting, board members reached out to the YMCA of Harrison County to see if it could assist.
Kimberly Spieth, the Y’s CEO/president, said the facility would have the same issue as the government center with regard to co-mingling of its members and those being tested.
“We’re open to partner with the parks board and swim teams,” she offered.
The Y already is used by the three county high schools’ swim teams as well as the Capital Aquatics team, now in its second season.
Matt Hamblen, the Y’s aquatics director, said he has reached out to Forte in an effort to provide a place for the Hammerheads if the Rhoads pool doesn’t open this year.
“It’s really not about the swim team, but kids in the community,” Forte said, adding that it’s a “low-cost supervised activity.”
The parks department also operates a public pool at South Harrison Park near Elizabeth that is home to the Seahawks swim team. The Seahawks shared the Rhoads pool when the SHP pool was closed for repairs in 2015 and 2018. Parks board members have suggested the Hammerheads can do the same but have been met with the response the drive is too far.
“That’s not an excuse,” Teresa Sutton, parks board president, replied.
When parks board member Scott Fluhr said swimming is available at the YMCA and O’Bannon Woods State Park, Forte said people can’t afford those options.
“I understand kids in the community need access,” parks board member Alex Wiseman said. “Is it most convenient to drive to South Harrison? No. … Somebody will have to give and somebody will have to take. I suggest search and develop a plan.”
Larry Shickles, parks department superintendent, encouraged Forte and Stilwell to develop a plan B and C in the event the Rhoads pool doesn’t open in 2021.
“We all want the kids to swim,” he said. “Keep in mind … the Rhoads pool closes as soon as school starts.”
Shickles said the decision for the health department to continue its use of the Rhoads site also affects the parks department.
“We had a lot planned for the Rhoads pool,” which was also closed during 2019 for repair work, to include swim lessons and pool parties, he said.
Shickles said the parks board would not ask health officials to vacate the premise because “it’s a community priority.”
Reas added that things are going in the right direction, with people following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with regard to wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands, which has also helpd reduced the number of flu cases this winter.
Reas said he is willing to talk to the health department but doesn’t have the authority to have it change locations.
“I think the solution is people are going to have to have an open mind,” Reas said. “Nobody wants to cause a problem with kids.”
The parks board’s next regular meeting will be Wednesday, March 24, at 7 p.m. at the Harrison County Discovery Center. The board is set to have a special meeting tonight at 7 with two items listed on its agenda: real estate leases and employee compensation plan.