Swim into the season

As dates near for pool openings, workers finish preparations
Friday, May 26, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:46 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Working for the aquatics section of Columbia’s Parks and Recreation Department isn’t just a summer job for Chris McCray.

“It’s really just the most fun job I’ve ever had,” he said. “I get a lot of rewards from it.”

McCray, a parks and recreation major, recently finished classes at Moberly Area Community College and has applied to both MU and Columbia College to pursue a degree in the field.

He’s also the head manager for the Oakland Family Aquatic Center, which will be open for Memorial Day weekend and will reopen for the season on June 1. Columbia’s other outdoor aquatics centers will open on June 3.

The Oakland pool logged 26,221 visits during the 2005 season, according to the Parks Department’s annual report. Aquatics supervisor Janel Twehous said she doesn’t know what to expect in terms of turnout, but the forecast promises to make for good swimming weather with temperatures near 90 degrees.

On Thursday, about 15 aquatics staff members helped clean the Oakland center to ready it for the public. Aquatics specialists, managers and lifeguards roamed the facility, doing various tasks as the Top 40 radio station played on the pool deck. They even sang along occasionally to songs like Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

Chris Seris, an aquatics specialist for the city, said it takes as long as three weeks to get aquatic centers ready to open.

Seris said the preparation includes general cleaning of everything from pool equipment, concession tables, the concession stand, offices and bathrooms.

The city employs about 38 people to work at the Oakland center during the summer, Seris said. Another part of the preparation process is to train new lifeguards and to ensure that the skills of returning lifeguards are up-to-date. Twehous said she estimates that 10 of the Oakland center’s lifeguards are new.

“Each year our lifeguards have to get re-trained,” Twehous said. “Their certification/license is only good for one year. They have to go through a relicensing class, and we test their skills.”

Among the 38 employees are two assistant managers, an emergency manager, 25 lifeguards, eight concession workers and two cashiers. As an aquatics manager, McCray oversees the Oakland center staff.

“I started at this facility as a lifeguard four years ago,” he said. “I’ve worked at almost all six of the city’s pools as a manager and as a lifeguard.”

This year, the Parks and Recreation Department is offering season passes along with daily passes and coupon books.

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