The Carrie Matthews Recreation Center pool remains closed four weeks after the school year ended, but Decatur Councilman Billy Jackson says the city should open it to provide an outlet for the neighborhood kids.

The city has a shortage of lifeguards, so the Parks and Recreation Department began the summer season with reduced schedules at Point Mallard Water Park and the Aquadome pool while announcing the Carrie Matthews pool wouldn't open.

Jackson said he met with Mayor Tab Bowling and Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake last week and urged them to get the pool open as soon as possible.

“I need that pool open,” Jackson said Friday. “It’s right across the street from a housing project. It’s critical to this community that it open.”

The pool is critical because Northwest Decatur youth need the summer activity, he said, especially with Carrie Matthews Recreation Center's gym and other indoor areas closed for renovations. Construction bids for the renovations likely won’t be opened until late July with work beginning then at the earliest, City Engineer Carl Prewitt said.

Jackson said he understands there’s a lifeguard shortage so he’s been talking to everyone he knows to find applicants. He said he planned to turn in five lifeguard applications last week.

“DYS (Decatur Youth Services) and my wife (Oak Park Elementary School Principal Teddi Jackson) helped me look for applicants,” Jackson said.

Lake said he understands Jackson’s push to get the Carrie Matthews pool open and it’s also one of his goals to open it. He said Jackson is “100% right” about the importance of the pool to Northwest Decatur.

“My goal is to have everything (all city pools) open,” Lake said. “But we cut hours at Point Mallard and we cut the hours at the Aquadome. How many facilities can we partially run? Right now, it doesn’t make sense to open Carrie Matthews pool when we can’t provide enough lifeguards.”

Lake said he worked with DYS Director Brandon Watkins to schedule days for Youth Services kids at Point Mallard. He said he also has worked with Jackson in the search for lifeguards.

All lifeguards must go through certification training and a class lasts two or three days, depending on the number of students. Lake said he will likely hold a class soon.

“We’ve held classes for five people before but we prefer to have a few more students in the class,” Lake said.

Bowling said finding lifeguards is a problem that cities across the nation are having, and he appreciates Jackson’s recruiting aid. He pointed out that, if a lifeguard is trained this week, there would be only 4½ weeks left before Decatur City Schools resumes classes Aug. 5.

Lake said the bottom line is he has to have enough lifeguards to provide adequate coverage of the pools for the safety of the swimmers and the lifeguards.

“It’s not as simple as hiring for maintenance or concessions where we can just throw them in to work," Lake said. “We’re doing everything we can do to find lifeguards and open the pool, but we have to do it safely."

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bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.

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