WAILUKU - County pools will be closed once a week starting Thursday, due to budget and staffing cuts that left the Aquatic Division without enough pool guards.
The closures will be scheduled on different days, so swimmers can find an alternative when their usual pool is closed, said Department of Parks and Recreation Director Tamara Horcajo.
In addition to the weekly closures at six Maui pools, two facilities, the Kahului Pool and the Old Wailuku Pool, will be closed entirely to open swimming and reserved for scheduled programs only.
In May, the county implemented a plan to close pools on holidays in order to cover a budget shortfall. The expansion to weekly closures comes as a tight new budget takes effect with the new fiscal year beginning Thursday.
Overall spending by the county would be cut by 7 percent in the budget, and the cuts include 13.5 positions for pool guards.
The county will also furlough workers for one day each month under the new budget.
"We just don't have enough staff to cover," Horcajo said.
The county must follow strict requirements for how many lifeguards it must have on duty when a pool is open, she noted.
In addition to saving money on staffing, the closures will reduce the cost of janitorial services, repairs and maintenance at the pools, she said.
Before deciding how and when to close the facilities, parks officials looked closely at pool sign-in sheets to determine which days got the most and least use. At every facility, the lowest attendance was seen on holidays, making that a logical first place to cut, Horcajo said.
"After looking at the information, it did seem like a good choice," she said.
Staff then looked at each pool's schedule, to account for the groups and classes that used the facility, before deciding which day of the week it would be closed, she said. Pools were kept open on weekends in order to accommodate families, and the closures were staggered so that not all the pools in the central area would be closed on the same day, she said.
The closures are scheduled as follows:
* Sakamoto Pool, Mondays.
* New Wailuku Pool, Thursdays.
* Kokua Pool, Tuesdays.
* Upcountry Pool Complex, Tuesdays.
* Kihei Aquatic Center, Wednesdays.
* Lahaina Aquatic Center, Thursdays.
On weeks that contain a holiday, the pools will not close for an additional day.
Cooke Memorial Pool on Molokai will not be affected by the weekly closures, but it will continue to close on holidays, Horcajo said.
While the pools will be closed to the general public, private groups, swim teams, lessons or other users who have permits and bring their own lifeguard assistants would still have access, she said. The Maui age-group swim teams, for example, have their own staff, and don't require the presence of county pool guards, she said.
"They will be able to maintain their programs at the pool, even when it's closed to the walk-in public," Horcajo said.
Kahului Pool and Old Wailuku Pool will no longer be available for open swimming, but they would continued to be used for lap swimming at scheduled times, as well as school swimming programs, summer PALS, the county's Junior Lifeguard program and other scheduled activities.
At least one pool user said he would accept the closures.
"Everybody has to cut back in this environment, in this recession," said swimmer Steve Goldstein. "I understand the county is hurting for funds."
Goldstein had previously pressed the county to fix equipment at the Upcountry pool, where he said the water had been cold and dirty. He said he appreciated that the county had responded by installing a new heater and filter.
"Six days a week of warm, clean water is not bad," he said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.