Under a new pilot program, out-of-county residents will soon have to pay to swim in the Millington pool.
Reporting to the Kent County Commissioners on August 20, Myra Butler, the county’s Director of Parks and Recreation, said that lifeguards have been asking not to be assigned to the Millington pool because of unruly behavior by users who “push back” when lifeguards attempt to enforce the rules. She said that many of the troublemakers are from outside the county and that they come to the pool because there is no charge to use it. She said lifeguards have been told they can call the sheriff if users continue to create problems, but they are reluctant to do so. And the problems are exacerbated by the reduced staff level at the pool.
In response, Butler proposed a pilot program to require a local facility access pass, which would be free to county residents, while outsiders would pay a fee. Butler suggested an annual fee of $25 for children under 12 years old and $35 for those above that age. Children under age 12 would not need passes if accompanied by parents with a valid pass. A lifeguard would be assigned to check whether pool users have a pass and where they reside. Butler said a fourth lifeguard would be assigned to the pool, and the lifeguards would rotate duties so two would be watching the pool at all times while another is on break and the fourth checks passes. She said the program should reduce problems and allow lifeguards to identify troublemakers. If successful, she said, the program could be extended to the Rock Hall pool.
The equipment needed to implement the program would include a computer, a camera, a printer, and a scanner, with an estimated cost of $1,800 for the equipment. Butler said it might be possible to use a computer already owned by the county, which would reduce the startup cost. She said the department already has web-based software to operate the program. She said pool users would need a debit or credit card to sign up for the program at the Millington or Rock Hall pools, but they could use cash at the Kent County Community Center. The fees would cover the cost of the program, she said.
Commissioner Tom Mason asked what would prevent out-of-county residents from coming to the Community Center pool if they were being asked to pay at Millington. Butler said the Community Center has more staff on hand to enforce the rules if someone gets out of hand. Also, she said, there is already a charge to use the Community Center pool, whereas the Millington and Rock Hall pools are free.
Mason said he thought the proposed fees seemed cheap to him. He said residents are paying for the pools with their taxes, and that non-residents should pay more. Butler said she thought the prices were reasonable but said the price is an issue to consider going forward. She said the department thought it was important to establish the fees before the end of the season, so as not to surprise people with them at the beginning of next summer. If the fees are put in effect now, it will get the word out for next year, she said.
County attorney Tom Yeager said the commissioners could authorize the pilot program now and adjust the annual fees at a later date. Butler said it would be important to do so early in the county’s budget process, because the pools open on Memorial Day weekend, before the final budget is approved. She suggested announcing now that fees will be in effect next year.
Commissioner Bob Jacob said the commissioners should plan a whole meeting on county fees, including public landings and landfill use as well as the pools.
Butler said she would bring in comparable fees from other jurisdictions so the fees could be set accordingly. The commissioners voted to approve the access pass program, with fees to be set at a later date.
Also at the meeting, the commissioners heard from three women, members of local volunteer fire companies, who reported that their husbands’ life insurance policies, paid for by the county, had not paid for their funerals. They said the firefighters frequently risked their lives to protect the lives and property of other county residents, and that it was a shock to learn that the policies they had taken out through the fire companies had expired without notice.
Michael Moore, president of Dukes-Moore Insurance, which underwrites the policies, explained that the policies were paid for by the county until age 65, but after that age, it was the responsibility of the insured to continue the payments. He said the fire companies should have informed the members that the needed to keep up the payments to continue the insurance. He said the requirement was spelled out in the written policies. He ascribed the fact that the firefighters weren’t aware of it as “a failure of communications.”
Mason said the commissioners “feel your hurt,” but that their role extends only to funding the program, which he said they would continue to do. He said the women should take their concerns to the Fire Chief’s Association, which administers the program on behalf of the firefighters, and try to make a change to benefit future members.
Also at the meeting, the commissioners held a public hearing on a proposed zoning text amendment to increase the maximum allowed size of structures on agricultural land from 25,000 to 50,000 square feet. Stephanie Jones, acting director of planning and zoning, gave the only testimony. She said the planning commission reviewed the proposed change and recognized a public need for the larger structures. The county’s Agricultural Advisory Committee also approved the change. The proposal is consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan, and does not conflict with the Critical Area regulations, Jones said. A vote on the proposed change is scheduled for a future Commissioners’ meeting.