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Council keeps lifeguard rules

The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County Council has rejected a bill to waive requirements that lifeguards be posted at small pools at hotels, after the testimony of a man whose 5-year-old son drowned at Crofton Country Club.

Thomas Freed, who with his wife started a foundation to strengthen safety standards for pools after the June 2006 death of Connor Freed, said Monday night that the council should not consider easing pool restrictions.

The bill by Councilman Edward R. Reilly called for waiving the requirement for hotel operators to place a lifeguard at most pools with an area of less than 2,500 square feet.

Shortly afterward, the council voted 6-1 against an amendment to refine the several provisions and the bill.

Representatives of county hotels lobbied for the measure as a way to reduce the financial burden of providing lifeguards. About 60 hotels would have been affected by the measure, and the cumulative savings could have approached $3 million.

Anne Arundel County is one of four jurisdictions in the state where regulations regarding swimming pools exceed the state standard, said county Health Officer Frances B. Phillips. That would have remained the case under the amended bill, which would have explicitly stated that all community pools must have lifeguards and exempted hotel pools less than 5 feet deep.

Council members said they were inclined to maintain the restrictions, to the dismay of hotel operators, who must close their pools when they can't find lifeguards.

"My concern comes from the basic question of why we shouldn't have lifeguards at these pools," said Councilman Daryl D. Jones, a Severn Democrat whose district in North County includes numerous of hotels.

The county averages seven to eight drownings a year, including two or three suicides, Phillips said.

A 16-year-old lifeguard who had been hired three weeks earlier was on duty at the club pool the day Freed's son died.

The councili also:

Amended a bill sponsored by Reilly, a Crofton Republican, dealing with the number of homes that can be built in areas of the county where the schools are crowded. Reilly's bill would have allowed up to five homes to be built on a given piece of property. The amendment reduces that number to three.

A change was inserted to require that those seeking the exception own their land for five years before a subdivision application.

Approved unanimously without comment from the Leopold administration Council Chairwoman Cathleen M. Vitale's bill to grant tax credits for property owners who modify their property to limit runoff. County officials had expressed their opposition in December.

Unanimously passed the water and sewer master plan. As part of the discussion, a partner in a proposed assisted-living facility on Generals Highway in Crownsville, Chuck Walsh, said that project is "dead as a doornail." Community leaders had fought efforts to extend sewer service and alter the zoning to allow for 160 units on the 7-acre tract.


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