Lifeguard shortage could induce pool restrictions

The state mandated stricter safety guidelines at Potter Pool last year following the drowning death of a 3-year-old boy. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The city of Clovis has asked the state to lift a staffing stipulation placed on a Clovis public pool after a boy drowned in it last summer.

The city has requested the New Mexico Environment Department allow three lifeguards, instead of four, to directly monitor swimmers at the Potter Park Pool, according to Director of Clovis Parks and Recreation Rob Carter.

State officials stipulated four lifeguards watch Potter Pool during hours of operation after 3-year-old Jequon Haynes drowned in July 2005 in the pool’s shallow end, according to Clovis News Journal archives.

The Potter stipulation is stricter than a statewide regulation, which mandates one lifeguard be present for every 40 bathers, New Mexico Environment Department District Manager Carlos Romero said.

Should the stipulation be lifted, Carter said the pool would restrict the number of bathers allowed in the pool to reflect the number of guards on duty. With three lifeguards, no more than 120 bathers would be allowed in the pool at one time, he said.

“We want to be safe,” Carter said.

The city’s request was prompted by staff limitations, Carter said. The availability of lifeguards at the pool will diminish when school starts in August, as the staff largely consists of high school students, Carter said.
The drowning last summer was neither a factor nor a consideration in the request, he said.

New Mexico Environment Department officials tested Potter lifeguards this week, measuring their rescue response standards, Carter said. The state mandates lifeguards must notice a potentially dangerous incident within 10 seconds and respond within 20 seconds, officials said.

The lifeguards at Potter Pool exceeded those standards, according to Carter.

“We will certainly do everything we can do to meet safety standards out there,” Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said. “We are confident we can take care of the swimmers.”

The pool will be open only on the weekends after Aug.11, Carter said, and should remain open into September.