Nashua officials feeling heat again after pool belly flop

To quote that great philosopher-king Yogi Berra of New York Yankees fame, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

That’s the first thing that came to mind as we watched Nashua officials jump through hoops Wednesday to open one of the city’s three outdoor pools – five days earlier than originally scheduled – in response to the arrival of a
first-day-of-summer heat wave.

For this is the second time in the past few months that city officials have found it necessary to scramble to accommodate residents because of unseasonably high temperatures.

Last time, it was over a city ordinance that banned outdoor dining on public sidewalks prior to April 15; this time, it was over the scheduled opening of the city’s outdoor swimming pools.

In both cases, the sequence of events was identical: Set plan in place. Circumstances change. Stubbornly stick to the plan. Draw wrath of community. Scramble to accommodate. Repeat.

In both cases, the city ultimately did the right thing.

But, in both cases, the city took a reactive rather than a proactive approach, unnecessarily irritating some residents in the process.

“I’m frustrated,” said Winitzia Correa, who showed up at Centennial Pool with her children and other family members Tuesday. “School is off already. It’s something free for the kids to do.”

On Tuesday, Parks & Recreation Superintendent Nick Caggiano explained the city’s outdoor pools – Centennial Pool, Crown Hill Pool and Rotary Pool – were not scheduled to open until Monday, roughly the same time as previous years.

While the pools were ready, he said, the lifeguards were not. It wouldn’t be until Saturday that more than two-dozen lifeguards would be trained and recertified in CPR by the American Red Cross.

Instead, city officials hustled Wednesday morning to round up enough certified lifeguards to open Rotary Pool by late afternoon.

To be fair, the original plan may have been fine if it had rained all week or temperatures had remained in line with historical averages. Highs of 77 are typical for this time of year in Nashua.

But this is New England, after all, and weather forecasters had been predicting near record-breaking heat since last weekend.

More to the point, a Telegraph survey of other New Hampshire cities found that Nashua had the latest planned opening by far. As of Wednesday, Concord, Dover, Keene, Lebanon and Portsmouth already had opened their outdoor pools for the summer, while Manchester planned to do so Thursday – in line with that community’s last day of school.

By comparison, if Nashua had stuck to its original June 25 opening, 10 days would have passed between its last day of school and the opening of the pools. That’s poor planning even if daytime temperatures weren’t hovering near the triple-digit mark this week.

Fortunately, by the end of the day Wednesday, city officials were acknowledging that they need to be more flexible when it comes to timing the opening of their outdoor pools.

Along those lines, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said the city will consider moving up the hiring and recertification of lifeguards into May, thereby alleviating a key obstacle to opening the pools earlier.

That could go a long way toward ensuring this isn’t repeated next year. After all, as Yogi once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”