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Staff file photo / Zack Traynor launches off the diving board at the Signal Mountain swimming pool. The Signal Mountain Town Council is still deciding whether it will open the pool in a limited capacity this summer.

The town of Signal Mountain's popular public pool won't be filled with the usual splashing and laughter of kids and teenagers this summer, as social distancing requirements to prevent spread of the coronavirus prohibit large groups from gathering. But the town council is still considering whether it will open the pool in a limited capacity for lap swimming this summer.

Mayor Dan Landrum asked Town Manager Boyd Veal and Parks and Recreation Director Jarred Thompson to come up with estimates for the cost of opening the pool to a limited number of people to reserve lanes for lap swimming, including estimates for different scenarios such as full and partial days.

Those estimates will be presented at the council's special-called meeting Wednesday at 9 a.m. The electronic meeting will be livestreamed on the Signal Watch Youtube channel.

Hamilton County recently announced it is opening its public pools on Memorial Day, but encouraging lap swimming only and discouraging the sharing of lanes.

Thompson said he's been inundated with questions from citizens on whether the pool is opening this year, with several even suggesting that the town open the pool to citizens on their designated trash pickup days.

"The consideration is it's costing us anyway," Mayor Dan Landrum said of the pool. "It can be safely used in a very limited capacity ... but is it worth that? That's what we have to determine."

In a typical year operating the pool is a net expense of about $50,000, Landrum said.

Veal estimated the cost to circulate and clean the pool water would be $15,000-$20,000, even if no one is allowed to use the pool.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's guidelines for opening pools include recommending people wear masks when not in the water, cleaning bathrooms every 30 minutes, and making sure people do not gather in groups of more than 10 people. Some council members expressed concern that lifeguards, typically teenagers, would be tasked with enforcing those guidelines in addition to keeping swimmers safe.

"I just don't see that it's feasible to do all the cleaning and monitoring we'll have to do for lap swimming," said Councilwoman Cheryl Graham.

Many pools that are reopening are hiring additional staff to meet those requirements, Veal said.

If the council does decide to open the pool in some capacity, it will probably not happen for a few weeks to allow time to hire lifeguards, he said.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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