Will the swimming pool in Seven Lakes North lose its lifeguards this Summer?
The Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board of Directors is set to vote on that question at its January 14 Open Meeting. [See story ing page 1.]
We believe eliminating lifeguards would be a mistake, and urge Board Members to vote against any motion that would do so.
More importantly, we believe the Board should delay its decision until the February 11 Open Meeting, in order to allow ample time for public input on this important decision — especially input from families with children.
Why this is a bad idea
There are six basic reasons being advanced for getting rid of lifeguards at the pool:
1. Lots of other communities and hotels have gotten rid of lifeguards.
2. Lifeguards are expensive.
3. Lifeguards are a liability.
4. Lifeguards reduce the number of hours the pool can be open.
5. Parents should watch their kids instead of relying on lifeguards.
6. Lifeguards don’t do their job and are just texting instead.
Let’s look at those, in reverse order.
6. Lifeguards don’t do their job.
This is strictly a management issue. A properly managed pool, with a top-notch pool director and well-trained lifeguards is achievable and is what SLLA members deserve. The Foxfire Village pool, which serves a community half the size of Seven Lakes North and South, is an excellent example of a pool that is well-managed and staffed by a well-trained group of adult lifeguards. There’s no reason SLLA management, with some effort, cannot achieve the same result.
5. Parents should mind their own kids.
Poppycock! This is the kind of things people say with they reach a certain age and become overly cautious about the world. Between the ages of 8 and 12, after I had taken the full range of Red Cross certified swimming classes, I rode my bike every sunny Summer afternoon to the local, professionally-lifeguarded public pool — without Mommy or Daddy in tow. Tens of millions Americans my age did the same. You probably did the same. Today’s kids deserve the same privilege.
4. Lifeguards reduce the hours the pool can be open.
Fallacy. The only thing standing between having folks use the pool when no lifeguard is present is a single sentence rule in the SLLA Rules & Regulations — a rule that can be overturned by a simple majority vote of the Board. Public beaches all up and down the East and West Coasts are guarded by lifeguards part of the day and are “Swim at your own risk” the rest of the day. Seven Lakes can do the same.
3. Lifeguards are a liability.
Poorly managed, poorly-trained, poorly supervised, uninsured lifeguards are a liability. SLLA needs well-managed, closely supervised, well-trained lifeguards — preferably over the age of 21. And those lifeguards need to be covered with a professional liability policy, not simply the Association’s general liability policy. Conceivably, the SLLA may need to hire a pool management company to provide lifeguards, if in-house management is unable or unwilling to handle the task.
The dams, lakes, roadways, playground — even steps in front of the Landowners Office — all represent a liability for the SLLA. That’s what insurance is for.
2. Lifeguards are expensive.
So are the pool, the lakes, the dams, the stables, the roads, the gate guards, the roving patrol, the boat patrol, and Association management. All amenities cost money. Providing lifeguards for a limited period in the middle of the day during the swim season is a small price to pay to make sure that all community members have access to an amenity that the Directors just spent $100,000 to rehabilitate.
1. Everybody else is getting rid of lifeguards.
Really? Is it the goal of the SLLA to be like every other penny-ante community in North Carolina. Do we think our community pool is just another hotel pool? Or do we propose to offer something special to our residents?
If you look closely at the matter, the reasons for eliminating lifeguards pretty much vanish into thin air — which is why Board Members should vote against any attempt to remove them.
Why the decision should be delayed
More importantly, the decision should be delayed until the February Open Meeting. And, between now and then, the Board should schedule a Town Hall Meeting, in the evening or weekend hours, and publicize it heavily.
Because the prime beneficiaries of having a lifeguarded pool are families with young children — Moms and Dads who want their children to have the same freedom you and I had to bike to the pool by themselves.
And, what is the fastest growing demographic Seven Lakes? Which demographic group is buying more than half the houses sold in Seven Lakes North and South?
You got it! Families with young children.
The US Census Bureau estimates that, in 2014, there were 1,066 children under the age of 18 living in Seven Lakes. That more than double the 478 counted in the 2000 census, and nearly four times the 275 children counted in the 1990 census.
More important, one in in every five Seven Lakers is child under the age of 18. Nearly one-quarter of Seven Lakes households include a child.
If you plan to eventually sell your home in Seven Lakes, it makes good sense to makes sure this community continues to be attractive to families with children.
Why do those families move here? Proximity to good schools, a gated community where their kids can walk or bike to the playground and pool, great amenities for kids.
But most families with kids are also two wage-earner families. They are busy. They don’t have time to come to Board meetings; they may not get around to reading all the SLLA emails; they probably don’t read this newspaper as religiously as some older folks.
So, they may not catch the fact that the Board has introduced a change that is likely to affect them more than anyone else right before a big two week hiatus devoted to the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
That’s why the decision needs to be delayed until February — and why the Board needs to schedule, and promote heavily, a Town Hall Meeting prior to making any decision with regard to lifeguards and the diving board.
We are confident Board members will take this bit of advice to heart and delay their decision until they have heard from the membership.