I was tipped off soon after getting sworn in in January to not waste any time getting the pool ready for a Memorial Day opening. I must admit that I didn’t jump right on it. I figured there had to be more important issues in January than worrying about a pool opening in late May. 

Somewhere around the first of March I turned my attention to the pool starting with my first visit and tour. All I’ll share here is that it wasn’t a pleasant sight. 

I’ve never operated a pool and determined I had a lot to learn quickly. I found a representative from a pool management company to walk me through the Memorial Park pool and asked that he submit and honest estimate for the work that needed to be done to bring the pool up to standard. My novice estimate for the work to be done was four times as much as what is in the budget for pool repairs and I was so far off the pool guy’s proposal which was ten times more than my estimate. That means we needed 400% more money to get the job done. 

The pool guy was only looking at the pool. His estimate didn’t include other repairs that were desperately needed on the pool deck and pool house areas. Between deferred maintenance  and vandalism, there was no way that pool could be opened in that condition. 

I joined city government just as departments were putting in their claims for American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds. Much of the priorities on the public property side of my department had already been identified but the parks and recreation side still needed to be accounted for. In short order, I identified immediate safety concerns in our parks and playgrounds that needed to be addressed and then I submitted the numbers for the pool. Immediately, the Receiver’s team made the pool project a priority and earmarked the necessary funds to perform the repairs and upgrades, but, that money would not be released in time to open the pool by the end of May.

This is where the story gets interesting because there are many stakeholders, no money, huge expectations, and me, the guy who has to make it happen. Despite what some were advising me to do, I didn’t listen and was willing to take a huge political hit by not opening the pool in its current condition until the systems were in place that all public pools must have to ensure clean safe water. There was a good chance the pool opening would have been delayed indefinitely. 

Before I go further, let me recognize the key people who were responsible for the pool opening on the Juneteenth weekend: The Receiver’s project management team; the city’s Chief Operating Officer; the Mayor; the Deputy Director of Public Property and Recreation along with key members of the Public Works department; the city’s engineer; the HR department; the city solicitor’s office; Laborer’s Local 413; a local corporation; the pool guy; and the sand company.

Complicating matters was the number of hands in the cookie jar. The process to get the pool opened was confusing, ugly, loud, mean, wrong, improper, and frustrating. We had our share of bad direction, lack of communication, misunderstandings, and insubordination. Yet, all those ingredients were needed to complete the work to open the pool with clean, safe water, a repaired pool deck, upgrades to the boy’s and girl’s bathroom, and the rehiring of long-time employees who do everything from serving as lifeguards to signing up families for memberships. Thankfully, we’ll never have to do it that way again. 

Memorial Park Pool 2022 features a brand new, state of the art chemical control system that assures the water is perfect at all times.

If there was ever a Hail Mary moment in Chester City government, this was it because the last step to get the pool open on Juneteenth depended on a delivery of sand from Pittsburgh that was arriving by truck with no assurances it would arrive in time for our guys to do what they had to do. They said it would be delivered on Monday – it didn’t arrive. They said Tuesday – that was Flag Day and I had a public works guy standing by on his holiday at home just in case the truck arrived because we needed a forklift to get it off the truck – it still didn’t arrive. They said Wednesday – it didn’t arrive. On Thursday, the truck driver called me to say he was an hour away. Our guys unloaded 2.5 tons of sand off the truck and put over 80 fifty-pound bags of sand in the filter. On Friday, the pool was ready. 

Saturday was the Juneteenth celebration in Memorial Park and the pool was open to the public with only a few of us knowing what it took to pull off the ‘Miracle at Memorial.’

My favorite picture. There were a couple patches of concrete in bad shape on the pool deck. Kids are going to run and the tripping hazards were real. Catching this kid in a photo as he ran across the repaired concrete was a proud moment.

Adding to the drama is the new Delaware County Department of Health which launched earlier this year and has a new pool certification requirement. None of us were aware of the requirement until about 3-weeks ago and fortunately the work we did checked off a lot of the boxes of their certification requirements. The county health inspector came by yesterday to look things over and gave us a passing grade. I assured her of the Phase 2 activity that will be occurring at the pool as ARPA funds get released which will ultimately position the Memorial Park pool to be one of the most modern and up to date public pools in the county by next season. 

If you’ve never enjoyed the Memorial Park pool, this is the summer to come by and enjoy. It is really one of Chester’s most happy places! Thank you everyone who helped get us there. 

The Mayor is a major stakeholder. We met at the pool to look things over and I told him where we were coming up short. He made a couple phone calls that only he could make and got the help we needed.