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Plans to open Heritage Hill Pool this summer are in limbo.
At Monday’s council meeting, White Oak officials said it’s possible the pool could open under limited conditions if the borough can adhere to public health guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Borough Manager John Palyo said White Oak is still under an emergency declaration order at the local, state and federal levels. “The declaration has not been relaxed, released or removed,” he said.
Allegheny County, along with 12 other counties, was moved from the red phase to the yellow phase May 15, under Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to reopen Pennsylvania, meaning some restrictions on normal activities have been relaxed.
But there is no timetable yet for when Allegheny might be able to move to the green phase, when most restrictions will be removed.
Many municipalities in western Pennsylvania, including the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, have announced that all of their public pools and spray parks will be closed for the summer.
According to the Pennsylvania Recreation & Parks Society, public swimming pools in counties that move to the green phase may open, but the society recommends “physical distancing measures that limit (swimmers to) 25 people in each active zone.”
Even if Allegheny County moves into the green phase, White Oak officials said they cannot ensure the pool will open.
Two other “pieces of the puzzle” have to come together, Palyo said. A project to replace the pump in the pool’s filtration system will need to be complete, and the borough will need to be able to properly train lifeguards and staff the pool, he said.
Training lifeguards has been on hold because the American Red Cross suspended lifeguard re-certification due to the pandemic, Palyo said.
The pool pump project was advertised last fall, bids were opened in January and a contract was awarded in February, Palyo said. “It was scheduled to be completed, but due to the pandemic, we could not have it installed prior to any consideration for opening,” he said.
Councilwoman Julie Opferman expects if the pool is open this summer, there will be new rules for the changing room and a limited number of passes available.
“We are following the governor’s guidelines,” Opferman said. She noted that the pool will have to be filled anyway to test the filtration system. “We haven't made any decision yet,” she said.
The next council meeting — June 15 — has been set as the cut-off date for a decision.
Councilman George Pambacas said if a decision to open the pool is made at the June meeting, “we would anticipate opening the pool between July 1 and July 14, which only leaves six weeks of the season.”
Palyo said he is confident council will be able to make a decision at next month’s meeting.
“By June 15, there will be enough data to answer questions (about) the pump and whether (COVID-19) numbers continue to drop or increase,” he said.
Richard Finch Jr. is a freelance writer who covers McKeesport Area School District, White Oak and a variety of other topics for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published May 21, 2020.