Hilliard City Council members are appealing to city officials to find a “common-sense” compromise regarding a new policy that prohibits the throwing of any objects at the Hilliard Family Aquatic Center and the Clyde “Butch” Seidle Community Pool.
“We have asked the administration to reconsider the rule. ... There has to be middle ground,” council President Kelly McGivern said June 27.
But for now, the city’s administrative policy prohibits the throwing of any balls, diving rings or other objects in the pool or elsewhere in either facility, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.
Ball said the policy could have been better communicated and city officials would learn from the experience.
“The city could have done a better job communicating (the new policy),” said Ball, who took over for Doug Francis last December.
The policy change is tied to an incident that occurred last year when a woman was struck by a thrown object while in the pool, Ball said.
The city settled with the woman’s insurance company, and during the winter former Hilliard law director Tracy Bradford issued a directive that the city enact a policy that prohibited throwing objects on pool property, Ball said.
That policy was never passed along to the city’s communications department, he said.
“I can’t say why (but) I wasn’t aware of it” until the pools opened for the season and city officials began receiving flack from the public, Ball said.
Ball said he, Mayor Don Schonhardt, Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department director Ed Merritt and City Council members all have received calls and emails about the new policy, as well as dialogue on social-media platforms.
“We have made other changes in policy that were not publicly communicated, but in retrospect, people felt more strongly about this than we expected (and) we learned from it,” Ball said.
Among those opposed to the new policy is Alan Chalker, who attended the grand opening and dedication of the Butch “Clyde” Seidle Community Pool on June 7. The pool on Schirtzinger Road formerly was known as the Hilliard East Municipal Pool.
“My 8-year-old son began throwing a beach ball around and a lifeguard told him he wasn’t allowed to do that. ... We were really disappointed,” Chalker said.
He said the beach ball was a free marketing item city employees had distributed for the grand opening of the Seidle pool.
Chalker said he sent emails to multiple city officials and was “equally frustrated” they did not respond until Ball sent an email June 26 to explain the city’s new policy.
Chalker said he understands the city’s position, but he hopes his calls to several City Council members could help forge a compromise.
“I don’t think a knee-jerk reaction to prohibit throwing all objects is what most people think reasonable,” McGivern said.
She said it is not clear if City Council has the authority to amend the administrative policy.
“We hope to work with the administration for a ‘common-sense solution’ by our next meeting on July 8,” McGivern said.
Ball said July 2 the city is “still monitoring (the policy) and listening to public feedback from both viewpoints.”
The July 8 session is City Council’s last meeting before its summer recess. The next scheduled meeting is Aug. 26, five days after classes resume for Hilliard City Schools.
A possible compromise would be to allow only certain kinds of balls inside the pool facilities, McGivern said.
Dublin has such a policy.
According to a Dublin recreation brochure, “only small, round, soft sponge balls and soft, round, inflatable beach balls are permitted (in pools).”
“Our staff uses their best judgment in any situation,” said Sarah McQuaide, a public-information officer for Dublin. “If they feel that any group is getting to be a little too rough while playing, they will approach them and discuss behavior. We also have spare, pool-friendly balls at the facility, and should someone bring a hard ball in, we offer those to them instead.”
Ball said he was not aware of the policies of other municipalities.
“We are more concerned with making our own decisions,” he said.
Hilliard resident Cara Cox, whose 13-year-old son uses the pools, said she thinks the city made the right decision, but she is not opposed to a policy that would allow diving rings or other limited objects to be thrown.
“But safety first,” she said.
Cox said during the past 10 years she has witnessed teenage boys throwing balls at the heads of other boys but sometimes missing and striking others.
Cox said she reported the behavior to lifeguards and pool supervisors, and she occasionally spoke to the boys throwing the balls but to no avail.
“I’ve seen other kids hit (with balls) and hurt and it bothers me every time. ... I just want people to be able to be safe,” Cox said.
Ball said the new policy is not aimed at stopping a parent from gently dropping diving rings into the pool or a parent and a child rolling or lobbing a ball in shallow water.
He said the city is open to hearing feedback and would “continue to monitor” reaction to the new policy, but the decision was made “looking at the whole spectrum” of the pools’ patrons.
“We made the decision for the safety and enjoyment of all our users,” Ball said.
Another new policy
The no-thrown-objects policy is not the only new one introduced this season.
Patrons also no longer are able to bring deliveries of pizza or any other takeout orders into a pools facility, Anna Subler, a communications administrator for Hilliard, told ThisWeek in May.
Pizza boxes also are not permitted inside the facilities, she said.
However, patrons may continue to pack food – including pizza – and drinks to bring from home in coolers and bags, Subler said.
The new policy has two parts, she said.
“Both pools are in the process of becoming zero-waste facilities, and pizza boxes contribute toward a large amount of waste at both pools,” she said.
The concession providers at both pools use environmentally friendly serving products, Subler said.
The frequency of deliveries also was a drain on the time of pool staff members, she said. Arrivals of deliveries previously were announced over loudspeakers.
“This policy will allow pool staff to better focus on their jobs rather than make delivery announcements,” she said.
In the event a patron still makes that call for a pizza, that individual or family will be asked to consume it at picnic tables outside the pool gates, Subler said.
Pizza boxes should be placed in the trash cans outside the pool, she said.