The Moab Recreation and Aquatics Center exists because a very dedicated and tenacious group of people worked tirelessly to convince community leaders it would be an asset to Moab and a place that would nourish the health and welfare of its citizens. I was not one of those citizens, but the Aquatic Center has become a vital part of my life that I have sorely missed since the pandemic forced its closing.
Let’s face it: public pools can be sketchy. I’ve been in enough pools across the nation that sometimes I backstep out of a place that doesn’t feel clean or safe. We haven’t had to worry about that in Moab because of the able management of Terry Lewis, Patrick Barile and Stacie Sheets. It has been a safe place to recreate, laugh, exercise, perform physical therapy, stay strong as we age and play while we’re young. Yet we are putting the safety of our community at risk by removing skilled, experienced personnel and putting in their place young, inexperienced staff.
The city is using COVID-19 as the reason for restructuring and eliminating positions. The city was in dire financial straits prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Could it be because of the hiring spree that went on between 2016 and 2019? Could it be the obscene amount of legal fees and payouts incurred during the same period? To be sure, a good portion of the city’s budget woes cannot be blamed on COVID-19.
After reading months and months of city council minutes, I could not find one word about a city-wide restructuring, reduction in force, or elimination of positions. Admittedly, private personnel matters are only discussed in closed executive sessions, but the council cannot take action in a closed session. There would have to have been a motion made in an open session calling for restructuring. I couldn’t find any record of such a motion. This is exactly what happened in 2016 when David Olsen and Ken Davey were suddenly fired. It’s pretty shameful that we are once again talking about how the city treats its long-term, loyal, highly skilled employees. I wouldn’t have expected the kind of callous indifference to loyal employees as was demonstrated by this council.
I miss the pool. I don’t really think I’d feel comfortable going back to a facility run by inexperienced staff, especially in this time of COVID. But I think the utter lack of transparency by the City Council is even more important. I guess they once again need to be reminded that they work for the citizens of Moab and are paid over $30,000 in wages and benefits to do so. Demand transparency from your government officials.