New company could run Fairfield aquatics center to help budget

Fairfield’s parks and recreation director said the city would “be silly” if it didn’t consider contracting with a pool management company for the 2021 season.

Director Tiphanie Howard said contracting a private company would limit liability and risk and save the city nearly $50,000. It would also free staff to focus on duties other than trying to recruit and hire seasonal employees.

“It’s becoming an industry standard for seasonal outdoor pools to partner with professional pool management groups,” said Howard.

She said it takes most of the year to prepare to open and operate an outdoor pool that runs just a few months of the year.

“We typically start this process right now with training and recruiting staff,” said Howard.

She said recruiting lifeguards who are often teenagers and college-aged students has been more of a struggle recently. Howard said the city focuses on finding young adults in Fairfield, but other local businesses can hire at higher pay. A pool management company can offer competitive hourly wages, she said.

Cities around the region, such as Montgomery, Wyoming, Evendale and Sharonville, use the pool management company SwimSafe, which Fairfield is considering. The city’s parks board will consider a resolution on Jan. 5, and City Council could then consider a resolution to contract with the company on Jan. 12.

Fairfield shut down its aquatics center on Augusta Boulevard for the 2020 season due to the state’s restrictions around curbing the novel coronavirus, and if similar restrictions are ordered in 2021, a private company could be better suited to navigate the restrictions. Howard said pools operated by pool management companies had the ability to stay open during the pandemic. It would have been too costly for Fairfield to do that alone, she said.

Howard met with Montgomery, Evendale and Sharonville recreation directors. Montgomery Recreation Director Julie Machon said it assists with all of the components, and the liability, with running a pool.

“Our overall goal is to run a successful pool season that’s mainly safe and also enjoyable for our patrons,” she said of the partnership with SwimSafe.

Montgomery has the ultimate say in what happens at the city-owned pool, and the pool management company is receptive in city-made decisions, “and they always try to meet our goals,” Machon said.

“It comes down to working with each other in the partnership,” she said. “We have a great relationship with them and we together work through everything.”

Fairfield will keep city-employed staff working with the SwimSafe staff and will have the final say in how the pool operates, Howard said.

“From a customer standpoint, it’s seamless. Our customers are seeing the same faces on the pool deck. They’re just being trained by a risk management group,” she said.

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