Spelling error leaves El Paso pool dried up

By Holly Eitenmiller For Chronicle Media

Due to minor errors in a construction permit process through the Illinois Department of Public Health, South Pointe Pool in El Paso will remain closed for the 2018 season. IDPH officials twice denied the parks and recreation district’s applications, and city officials have chosen to reapply for the 2019 season. (Photo by Holly Eitenmiller / for Chronicle Media)

A mix up over a misspelled word has left El Paso residents without a public pool for the summer.

Built in 1991, South Pointe Pool, at the foot of S. Sycamore Street, needed upgrades last year.

Among those improvements needed was the replacement of two stainless steel drain covers, which belong on the bottom of the pool.

“It came down to the contractor that was hired to draw up the blueprints,” El Paso Director of Parks and Recreation Derek Stoller said. “We had a mistype on the application for permit. The Illinois Department of Public Health said we misrepresented ourselves and had to refile.”

The first application was filed in March. A second application was filed, then denied, for additional reasons, and officials weren’t notified of the denial until June 26. El Paso Mayor J.W. Price apologized on the park district’s Facebook site that day.

“In another setback, the City of El Paso’s second pool permit application to (IDPH) was declined,” Price wrote. “We are again working with our engineering firm to fix all requested changes for the permit needs of the State of Illinois. We will continue to keep you updated as we progress through this process. Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.”

The state’s denials have delayed the minor construction well into July, and, as a result, South Pointe Pool will remain empty and closed for the season.

Because of the closure, the El Paso Olympians swim team has canceled practice sessions due to “ongoing construction” and residents have had to look elsewhere to swim.

The closest pool to El Paso is 10 miles away in Gridley. Roanoke Park Swimming Pool is 10 miles further than Gridley, and Metamora’s public pool is 25 miles from El Paso.

“We’re not allowed to perform this construction without a signed permit, can’t open the pool without it,” Stoller explained. “The drain covers only have so many years of life expectancy, and when they hit that expiration date it can become hazardous.”

The pool underwent recent modernizations, including new Dri-Dek floors for the pool house, showers and restrooms. Dri-Dek prevents water puddles and prohibits the accumulation of germs. Modernizations, however, do not require IDPH approval.

The parks and recreation district purchased the covers in October, but installation will have to wait until IDPH officials sign off on a permit. El Paso officials shrugged off the notion of opening the pool in 2018, and filed for a 2019 construction permit.

A closed public pool doesn’t mean it’s a financial loss for the district. The cost of operating the pool, Stoller said, outweighs the profits, a common fact of public pools. But it’s a loss for the community, he said.

“We’re not losing money, we budget to lose money per year on the pool,” Stoller said. “It’s more of a pain for our citizens. We find out every single day how much people miss the pool.”

IDPH officials did not return calls for comment.




—- Spelling error leaves El Paso pool dried up —-