Home News COVID-19 Situation Hold on state pool inspections concerns city

Hold on state pool inspections concerns city

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Another impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been a halting of state pool inspections, which a Roswell city division manager worries could further delay opening of city pools even after future changes to public health orders allow reopening.

The city of Roswell is eager to open the indoor and outdoor pools in the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center as soon as the state will allow, not only to provide the amenities to the public but to start generating money again. The state’s public aquatic venues and recreation facilities were ordered closed March 19.

But pools have to be inspected first by the Swimming Pool Program of the New Mexico Environment Department Environmental Health Bureau to reopen.

Recreation Manager Marcus Gallegos said that he has been informed that he cannot get the inspection done now and that the city cannot be put on a priority list or pre-pay for the inspection.

“We have been in contact with them quite a bit, trying to figure out, trying to be ahead of the game, and they won’t let us get ahead,” he said. “I am doing everything to be as proactive as possible so we can open as soon as we are allowed to.”

Pool inspectors have been reassigned to “critical COVID-related work,” according to Maddy Hayden, New Mexico Environment Department’s public information officer.

But, she said, the Environmental Health Bureau has developed a plan for inspecting pools once the state allows them to reopen without creating lengthy backlogs. She did not detail what those plans were.

She added that she cannot predict when “Class A” pools — which includes the city pools, the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell pool and the New Mexico Military Institute pool — can reopen. It is also unknown when the 35 or so pools in Chaves County associated with hotels or apartments with six or more units might be authorized for reuse. Those smaller public facilities also will have to be inspected.

“We will ensure they are in compliance with whatever applicable rules and restrictions are in place at the time of reopening,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is also affecting the local program of the Boys & Girls Club of Sierra Blanca, which operates in Ruidoso as well.

The group is working with the city to arrange for a move into the city’s Recreation and Aquatic Center this summer as renovations get underway on their current building at 201 S. Garden Ave. They also rent that site from the city.

But state rules in effect as of Thursday that require youth recreation programs to have a ratio of five students for each instructor and to use the same adults throughout the day, rather than rotate leaders in and out, would create an unprofitable situation.

“He (Executive Director Tim Coughlin) is hoping that by July 1 when they plan to start their program, that she (Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham) will loosen that to a 9-to-1,” said Gallegos. “With a 9-to-1 ratio, they can make it work and they plan on holding it. But if she sticks to a 5-to-1 ratio throughout the summer, they are not going to be able to make that happen. And I have already talked with several people throughout the state and they are canceling their summer program based on that 5-to-1 ratio.”

Lujan Grisham was expected to announce new guidelines Thursday. Coughlin confirmed that the summer program needs a ratio of 9-to-1 to be profitable and is hoping even more students than nine per adult will be allowed by state order by July. He said the organization would like to start enrollment by early June and hiring by mid-June, if restrictions are eased.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.