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A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
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John Guest
Mueller Community

Posts: 133
Joined on February 2nd, 2008
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by John Guest on April 20th, 2010

In light of the continuing and vigorous discussion about matters surrounding the pool, I thought it might be useful if I provide some context for the discussions.

The pool I’m talking about is the Ella Wooten Park pool. I usually try to read MuellerCommunity.com every day and I avoid new urbanism, conspiracy theories, mass transit, and things related to cute children. That kind of leaves me focused on dog poop, Family Dollar stores, the verticality of the old control tower, laughing my eyes out with Aaron’s blog, and . . . the pool.

I am an old life guard and pool manager. I learned water safety instruction while a student at UT and was one of the late, UT Coach C. J. “Shorty” Alderson’s teaching assistants for teaching his college-level water safety course. “Shorty” among other things was an Olympic diving coach, but that is another story.

I was on the first Mueller Pool Advisory Committee and attempted to communicate information and concerns between our neighbors and Jennifer Harvey of Alliance. Because I missed this year’s first meeting of the Pool Advisory Committee, I was nominated in absentia to let you know what’s going on . . . as if I know anything!

What I can tell you now is that the Pool Advisory Committee is up and running again. Diane Gierisch, Hon Chan, Ben Kramer attended last Thursday night. Several “slug” neighbors like me were not able to make it. The Pool Advisory Committee is made up of Mueller neighbors who volunteered and were selected by Jennifer Harvey. We advise Jennifer about pool issues, policies, plans, and problems.

While the Committee is advisory, it is listened to and heeded appropriately by Jennifer. Jennifer has the responsibility to make sure the pool is operating effectively and serving the community safely, economically, and legally. Sometimes we ask Jennifer to do things that are illegal. She always says “no”. Sometimes we ask Jennifer to change the pool so that it is more expensive. She almost always says “no” unless it has to do with safety. Every time we ask Jennifer to do something that has to do with safety, she says “yes”. In between are a whole series of issues that we work together on often struggling to find a reasonable compromise that will work for the most people.

Last week – at the meeting I missed – the Pool Advisory Committee discussed the problems with the steps in the baby pool. They were not constructed adequately two years ago and now are being fixed. Bummer! The Committee discussed the gate and its locking mechanism. It is apparently a heavy gate with the “heavy-dutiest” of electronic locking mechanisms. This mechanism has been upgraded and the gate re-plumbed so hopefully problems will diminish. In the meantime, the gate lock is supposed to operate during the hours the pool is open for residents. When you hear the gate lock click, pull on the gate without trying to turn the handle. Please don’t wedge rocks under the gate to keep it open! Some cards may have been intentionally deprogrammed. Not paying homeowner dues or reporting a lost card may be the cause of this. A number of cards may also have been deprogrammed unintentionally through exposure to other magnetic materials, heat, or maxed-out credit cards (the last one is a joke). Post your frustrating experience with the pool gate on the Forum or email me at johnguest01@gmail.com. For malfunctioning cards, email Jennifer Harvey at jharvey@allianceonline.net.

There are continuing discussions about the proper hours for the pool. Pool availability times are dictated by several issues: 1) the dual classification of the Ella Wooten Pool, 2) the maintenance and cleanliness of the pool, and 3) balancing neighborhood interests, safety, and swimmer demands.

While funded by the Mueller homeowners through the POA, the pool is regulated by health and safety regulations of both the City of Austin and the State of Texas. Before any of us ever moved in, and in an effort to balance neighborhood resident use with broader access for our non-Mueller neighbors, the Ella Wooten pool was conceived of operating with a dual use classification. One classification makes the pool available to virtually anyone. In this classification, there MUST BE LIFEGUARDS PRESENT. Entry to the pool can have an entry fee associated with it (Mueller residents obtain free entry because of their homeowners dues), but for all practical purposes the Ella Wooten Pool is treated as a public access pool when lifeguards are present. The other classification is private, i.e. the pool can only be used by residents of the Mueller neighborhood. When a pool is classified as private, lifeguards do not have to be present, but reasonable efforts must be made to assure that members of the general public are not granted access to the pool.

So Ella Wooten pool has a “split personality”. If we confuse the two personalities, there are negative consequences. The pool can be closed if we let non-Mueller residents swim during private hours (except that residents may have up to four non-resident guests when the resident is also present). The pool can be closed if we keep non-Mueller residents from swimming during public hours. Members of the “public” can be charged with trespassing if they use the pool during private hours. (Members of the Mueller community can also be charged with trespassing if they jump the fence.)

The way to avoid this “personality” confusion is to create a time gap between public and private phases of the pool. At one point, we thought an hour long gap made good sense. This turned out to be too long, so the phase change-over time gap was shortened to 30 minutes. There are now people who think 30 minutes is too long. The lifeguards go off contract after 7:00 p.m., creating the impression that the shift to private status has occurred. Others contend that the lifeguards need adequate time to clear the pool of all swimmers and to give a clear indication that the public period has ended. For now, the Pool Committee is supporting the continuation of a 30 minute gap, but this will be reviewed periodically.

The other time issue relates to the actual hours of public and private pool operation. The public time is essentially constrained by how much money the POA has to pay for lifeguard coverage. This involves both the number of lifeguards at any one point in time and the total number of lifeguards available to extend hours. In essence the pool is budgeted to supply about seven hours per day/ six days per week. The decision to open at 1:00 p.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for public swim is tied to the funding for lifeguards. Some people would like later hours; some earlier. Generally, the Pool Advisory Committee thinks it’s about right.

The private hours are arrayed around the public hours with a gap for pool phase changeover. The start and stop times are based upon the notion that the pool should have swimmer-free time to recycle its filtration system and to avoid having activity during hours when the surrounding neighborhood and its children are trying to sleep. The decisions to open at 5:00 a.m. and the decision to close at 9:00 p.m. were based upon concerns about noise and the need to have a stretch of tranquil water for pool cleaning and water filtration. The times were set before much of a neighborhood existed around the pool. Now that all the homes are filled, there is some sense that noise is not a concern to the closest houses. The Pool Advisory Committee will reevaluate its previous effort to be a good neighbor after this summer season.

The pool also closes totally on Mondays. Some people see this as unnecessary. In truth, there are pools that operate 24/7. Ella Wooten has not been one of them because it is my belief and the belief of many who understand pool cleanliness that a full 24-hour period without use is a better way to reduce impurities in the pool. This method can be over-ruled by increased use of chemicals. This is also a cost of maintenance issue. It too will be revisited periodically by the Pool Advisory Committee.

Questions have also been raised about bringing food into the pool grounds. Given our need to treat ants and other insects very carefully, lest undesirable chemicals come into contact with humans and the pool water, we need to remain conscientious about keeping food out of the grounds.

The pool is a wonderful resource for the residents of Mueller and surrounding communities. Like all good things, it can be frustrating too. As we enjoy, the pool this spring and during the long, hot summer, we look forward to hearing from you about what you like and what you’d like improved at the Ella Wooten pool. We’ll work hard to make it better.

 
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aaron
Mueller Community

Posts: 303
Joined on August 30th, 2007
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by aaron on April 20th, 2010

Knowledge is power. thanks for the synopsis of what is going on with the pool. Personally, I think having Monday's closed is good for the filtration system as in the summer, I use the pool as my main source of bathing.

Good work pool committee!!
 
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John Guest
Mueller Community

Posts: 133
Joined on February 2nd, 2008
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by John Guest on April 20th, 2010

Within the inner sanctum of the Pool Advisory Committee, we always refer to Mondays as "Aaron's bathtub ring removal day". This is not for publication, however!
 
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ianvarley
Mueller Community

Posts: 86
Joined on October 18th, 2008
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by ianvarley on April 20th, 2010

John, thanks so much for the well worded and thoughtful explanation. And thanks for volunteering your time (and your email address) to help facilitate the process. It's folks like you who transform a faceless bureaucracy into a friendly neighborhood.
 
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Drew
Mueller Community

Posts: 79
Joined on September 19th, 2007
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by Drew on April 20th, 2010

Quote:
John, thanks so much for the well worded and thoughtful explanation. And thanks for volunteering your time (and your email address) to help facilitate the process. It's folks like you who transform a faceless bureaucracy into a friendly neighborhood.


Hear, hear! That sums up my thoughts and thanks to John as well. Your explanations make the pool policies seem so ... well, reasonable.

We appreciate the work done by those serving on the pool committee, especially their efforts to communicate how they are weighing residents' various concerns. Hopefully it is a model that other POA committees will follow.
 
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Betsy
Mueller Community

Posts: 542
Joined on December 17th, 2007
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by Betsy on April 20th, 2010

YES.... thanks to you John for posting, and to everyone who serves on the advisory committee. I think you're striking a reasonable balance on the issues and appreciate the volunteer time y'all spend debating the issues.
 
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misselaine
Mueller Community

Posts: 470
Joined on May 26th, 2009
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by misselaine on April 21st, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Guest!

I still wonder, though, why can't the board just change the private hours to stay open till 10 pm, and then see what happens. IF there are complaints over this season, then change it back. I don't see why we need a whole season to "evaluate" the noise problem. Isn't it just as easy as saying, "For a trial period, the pool will be open till 10 pm, " and adjust the gate so it opens later? That seems like it would take 10 minutes to do! Why do we need a committee and 5 months for this?

Sorry, but this just does not make sense to me.

Elaine
 
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dodger
Mueller Community

Posts: 123
Joined on August 2nd, 2008
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by dodger on April 21st, 2010

John,
Thanks so much to you and the advisory committee for all you do to keep tabs on the pool. We are so lucky to have you in the 'hood. Marsha
 
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John Guest
Mueller Community

Posts: 133
Joined on February 2nd, 2008
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by John Guest on April 21st, 2010

Elaine: While you don’t agree with our position and it doesn’t make sense to you, I think your position does make sense. Thank you for sharing it.

I will add another argument to your position – if you don’t mind. The Ella Wooten Park is open from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Since noisy kids could be playing their noisy, little hearts out until 10:00 p.m. and the playground and basketball court are closer to houses than the pool, what would be the problem with allowing the pool to stay open until 10:00 p.m.? And – in another concession to your point of view – it would appear “common-sensical” that a lap swimmer would be less noisy than a pack of b-ballers or even a group of children pretending to be Pirates of the Caribbean on the playground equipment.

The reason for our caution is to honor the quiet of our neighbors. We may have exercised an over abundance of neighborly caution. The Pool Advisory Committee is trying to schedule another meeting soon. I’ll be happy to carry your opinion to them, but my sense is that they’re reading all of this just like you and me.

My opinion? For whatever it’s worth? We should poll the neighbors around the pool and ask them directly whether 9pm or 10pm matters. If one neighbor around the pool says 9pm is preferred, I’m voting with them even if they’re in a tiny minority. If every pool-side neighbor says “10 p.m.”, I’m ready to change hours in a flash.

I will be just one vote, but I think the group will come up with a reasonable bit of advice . . . and we’ll report on it here. The Pool Advisory Committee is trying to balance different points of view. Let us hear yours.

And, Elaine, if you don't think we need a Committee, I'd welcome your suggestion for how this could be done better . . . we could all use the extra time. Thanks.
 
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connie
Mueller Community

Posts: 56
Joined on July 4th, 2008
A Not-So-Brief Message from the Pool Advisory Committee
by connie on April 22nd, 2010

I live directly across from the pool in one of the closest houses. Even on the most busy Saturday afternoon I cannot hear the pool unless I go out on my porch. Even then it is only the voices of a few little girls that carry very far. The basketball players are much louder and they are further away from my home. I vote keep it open till ten. It is a great way to end a hot summer evening.
 
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