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Sunday closing of pool generates heat

FARMINGTON -- The closing of Farmington's Aquatic Center pool on Sundays has some residents feeling hot and demanding relief from what they see as a religiously inspired imposition.

"It's not the noise, it's not the cost, it's that it's Sunday," said Jane Miner, a member of the city's Leisure Services Board.Miner, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said some Mormons do not consider it appropriate to go to a pool on Sunday, and she suspects this is the real motivation behind the closing.

On June 2, after a motion by Mayor Greg Bell, the City Council voted 2-to-2 on the issue, with Bell casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of closing the pool on Sundays. Residents who went to the pool the following Sunday found a sign saying it was closed. There was no other explanation.

Neither the Leisure Services Board nor the pool manager were consulted, and there was no public hearing on the matter, Miner said.

"I'm very angry about this because people's rights are being violated. People are concerned that somebody has decided what they should do and then used other justifications which they cannot support," Miner said. She herself doesn't go to the pool on Sundays but she believes those who want to should have that right.

The City Council will reconsider the matter at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Miner is one of two people who will be permitted to speak on the issue, she said.

Bell said he acted at the request of residents who live near the pool.

"When you talk to neighbors, they characterize their objection sometimes in religious tones, sometimes in terms of noise." However, the council's decision was not based on religious considerations, he said.

Councilman Larry Haugen, who voted along with David Dixon for the closure, also denied a religious motivation and cited the cost of keeping the pool open for only a few people. He said the matter was open to reconsideration.

The city has been wrestling with the issue of the pool for a long time, Bell said.

"What people forget is that this council and I fought some difficult political issues to get this pool in place," he said. "There was significant resistance to the pool from some of the neighbors. Some wanted it closed on Sundays. Some didn't."

In 1997, when the pool opened, Provo was in the midst of a controversy over the Sunday closing of a pool and golf course.

"We didn't want a religious issue. We wanted an inclusive community so we said let's make the tent big and see how it goes," Bell said

When the city revisited the issue a year ago, pool management said Sunday use wasn't high and it had a hard time keeping lifeguards because young people didn't want to work on Sunday. However, the council deferred to the wishes of Councilwoman Pat Achter, who felt strongly the pool should remain open on Sunday, Bell said.

Still, he continued to hear complaints from neighbors.

"I just thought about it and I think we've shown our good faith and let's go the other way and accommodate our neighbors. We're only open for three hours. Let's just close it and see how it goes."

Bell said a survey conducted by the city a year ago indicated that half the public pools in the county were open on Sunday.