Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lifeguard Removal Bill Beaten Back

On Monday, the County Council defeated one of the more bizarre pieces of legislation in recent memory. Councilman Reilly sponsored a bill, apparently at the behest of a local hotel owner, to remove the requirement that hotels with pools of a depth of 5 feet or less have a lifeguard. The smarmy rationale of the hotel owner, Steve Merchant was that, "having no lifeguards may have parents better monitoring their children." Yes, let's adopt a laissez faire attitude to the protection of tykes in water wings and see which ones make it to adulthood.

Mr. Reilly, dumbfounded that the bill got only his vote, offered, "my peers were concerned about protection in spite of the economic cost." Imagine that, the County Council, whose charge certainly includes public safety, is more concerned about children drowning in the local Motel 8 than they are about the hotel having to pay a high school student minimum wage to monitor the pool. Have they no sense of priorities?

Even more confounding, however, was Health Officer Fran Phillips' support of the bill. Her defense? “We don’t see a detriment to public health, as we will still monitor the pool’s operation.” Yes, because checking the pool weekly for high bacteria levels is in any way, shape, or form related to the capacity of children to drown in the absence of supervision. She also said, "most of the county’s six drownings last year were outside of pools." Perhaps that's because the pools had lifeguards and the law is working.

This is now at least the third time in the past year that the County's Health Department has underwhelmed me. The first two being their blame deflection game regarding the fly ash situation in Gambrills, and their persistent defensiveness in the face of the inadequacy of their waterway bacteria monitoring program.

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