West Windsor Mayor Hemant Marathe announced Friday that the WaterWorks community pool will not open this summer due to COVID-19 and the costs associated with implementing new health guidelines.
Princeton officials still have not made a decision about opening the Community Park Pool. A decision was expected Thursday night, but has been postponed until a date still to be determined next week. The municipality’s network kept failing during the recreation commission zoom call Thursday night, and the recreation director was repeatedly dropped from the call. Another reason for the delay is that state officials are also issuing more guidance on opening pools and clarifying some regulations next week. Some pools that were slated to open on June 22 have delayed their opening dates while waiting for more information from the state.
State guidelines call for occupancy limits of 50 percent of capacity, visitor logs that track the name and contact information for every person that enters the facility, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures, daily health screenings of all pool staff, and social distancing requirements both in and out of the water, in addition to other restrictions.
In Princeton, West Windsor, and many other municipalities, officials are working to figure out how they can implement the safety protocols and afford to run programs given the occupancy limits, the shorter pool season, and costs associated with new procedures.
Marathe said in an email to West Windsor residents that the implementation of new guidelines would require the pool to increase staffing and purchase additional materials that would lead to significant increases in operating expenses.
“Due to the strict guidelines, WaterWorks cannot operate as it has previously. For instance, changes within the facility would have to be made that would impact patron satisfaction. Lounge chairs and picnic tables would have to be removed. The playground, slide, and diving boards would not be open. Bathrooms and pool areas would have to be closed periodically for cleaning. Entrance and exits to the facility would have to be modified,” Marathe said in an email to residents.
“After careful consideration of the guidelines, the costs associated with implementing the health guidelines, liability concerns, and patron safety concerns, we have decided to not open the complex to membership this summer,” he said.
Because the facility still has some operational expenses even if it is not open for the summer, the township will be renting out the lap pool to several area swim teams for practice sessions in order to offset some of the costs. He said the teams must follow strict COVID-19 prevention guidance from health officials for sports activities and the limitations imposed by the competitive swimming association for conducting practices during the pandemic.
“We will be using the downtime this summer to make some improvements to the facility as well,” Marathe said. “We hope to open for the 2021 season better than ever before.”