The pool season in Sedalia just got a little shorter.
During its meeting March 3, the Sedalia Park Board voted to close Liberty Pool earlier due to lack of staff and attendance. In 2015, Centennial Pool closed before the Missouri State Fair started and Liberty Pool closed after Labor Day Weekend. Parks and Recreation Director Mark Hewett said although he’s been “a champion for keeping them open,” it’s been a “real struggle” to keep it open that long.
“To give some history, before I got here both pools closed when the Fair started,” Hewett told the board last week. “I came in and said I hate to do that, let’s keep one pool open through Labor Day. Attendance doesn’t support it, it’s a losing proposition, but we’ve always kept them open. (Now) I’m just kind of throwing in the towel — everyone goes to college, all of our high school kids are in their volleyball, softball; we just can’t staff one pool safely.
“In the past we’ve had to close the slide down, we had to cut down our guards to the minimum safety level, close down the deep end before at Liberty.”
Centennial Pool will still close at its normal time. Liberty Pool will now close the Sunday before the Sedalia School District 200 starts classes, meaning the pool will close Aug. 21 this year.
Hewett and board members agreed there just isn’t enough pool staff to safely staff Liberty Pool, as most are either college students who have already started classes or high school students who work at the Fair or have extracurricular activity commitments before school starts. Hewett also noted pool attendance is lower during the Fair unless there is an extremely hot day and the pool is only open 3:30 to 6 p.m. during the end of the season anyway.
He also said Sedalia isn’t the only city to make this decision.
“I think Warsaw is the only one open. They close and then open for Labor Day,” Hewett said. “Every other pool closes about mid-August and we’re going to be going to Aug. 21 (this year) and they all cite the same thing. (Recreation Superintendent) Kari (Tyler) called a bunch of them. We simply don’t have staff.”
Closing early will save money for the Parks and Recreation Department. Parks Superintendent Dave Moore told Hewett it costs about $200 a day to operate pool chemicals, electrical and other needed items at Liberty Pool, plus they will save on staffing costs.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.