By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Elly Marez said she won’t be returning to the Portales City Pool until the city changes the rules of accessibility to the baby pool, an issue she describes as height discrimination.
Marez, a grandmother and Portales resident, says she took her two granddaughters, ages 5 and 18 months, to the pool recently but was met with a dilemma when she was turned away from the baby pool because her older granddaughter was taller than the height limit of 44 inches.
Marez said because her 5-year-old granddaughter couldn’t swim alone in the recreational pool, they had to leave.
She told her story to the Portales City Council earlier this month, which was met with sympathy and a promise to look into the solution. But on Tuesday councilors who sat on the committee to review Marez’ issue said they decided to stick with the height requirement of the pool for safety purposes.
“It’s a disappointment to me that they didn’t change it to an age requirement,” Marez said. “This is silly, we’re talking about toddlers.”
Marez said it shouldn’t matter if her granddaughter was a little bit tall for her age, landing her two inches over the 44-inch line, because she would supervise her.
But Public Works Director John DeSha said children too tall can bump their heads on the slides in the baby pool, which is why the height requirement is set at where it is.
City Councilor Dianne Parker sat on the review committee and said it wasn’t an easy decision to make because she wanted to help Marez.
“Sometimes you just have to draw the line. You just have to make a rule somehow, somewhere,” Parker said. “When we do rules, it’s for the protection of the citizens and the children and everyone concerned.”
Parker said it was hard for them to address Marez’ issue because Marez is one of few who had a problem with the height requirement of the baby pool.
“Unfortunately we’re not going to be able to accommodate everyone but the city wants to make sure that everyone’s safe,” Parker said. “In order to do that, there has to be rules that not everyone likes. I feel for (Marez).”
DeSha said the height requirement for the baby pool is based on the slides manufacturer’s recommendation.
DeSha said city officials considered having one lifeguard monitor the slide area of the pool but said they would have to hire one extra lifeguard to do so.
As far as Marez’ problem with the pool, DeSha says he doesn’t know what can be done other than having her bring another chaperone with her so that both of her grandchildren can swim.
“That exact situation does not come up all the time,” DeSha said. “Usually it’s someone who’s 12 and wants to swim in the baby pool.”
Marez says she hopes to find others in her situation so that she can try to convince the city to change the rules because she’ll show a larger group is affected.
“I was pretty disappointed in that entire process,” Marez said. “We’re not using the city pool, I feel like it’s a disservice to some of the population of the pool.”