Community Family Government

Fountain Hill Pool Won’t Open This Summer

Fountain Hill Borough Council decided Monday that the borough’s swimming pool will again remain closed this summer, despite an ongoing effort by a grassroots community coalition to raise money for its repair and take other steps to help reopen it.

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Fountain Hill Pool

Despite months’ worth of fundraising and staff recruitment efforts by a volunteer coalition, the Fountain Hill Pool will not reopen to the community this year, borough council decided Monday. Council members cited a lack of staff as the main reason why the pool will remain closed; a circumstance coalition leaders say wasn’t because of a lack of support they provided for the borough’s recruitment efforts. Pictured above is the pool when it was last open, which was intermittently during the summer of 2021. (Saucon Source FILE PHOTO/Josh Popichak)

Fountain Hill Borough Council decided Monday that the borough’s swimming pool will again remain closed this summer, despite an ongoing effort by a grassroots community coalition to raise money for its repair and take other steps to help reopen it.

The reason cited for the decision was a lack of lifeguard applications.

Councilwoman Jamie Johnson, who chairs the Recreation Committee, said a goal to have hired 12 pool lifeguards by April 30 had not been met. Without proper staffing, she said the borough would risk spending taxpayer money on a potentially futile effort to open the facility this year.

“It’s not just our problem,” council president Norman Blatt said. “Everyone is having a problem with (hiring) guards.”

Fountain Hill Community Coalition board member Jason Brandon, whose group recently raised nearly $8,000 to recaulk the 64-year-old pool, pushed back against council’s reasoning for keeping it closed during the courtesies of the floor portion of the meeting.

Brandon questioned why the lifeguard positions weren’t advertised earlier if the borough knew that the hiring challenge was so great.

“We had all year. We knew that was the most important thing to do,” he said, adding that it wasn’t the coalition’s responsibility to recruit staff.

“We were supposed to be working in tandem to get this done, with the coalition taking the lead,” countered councilman Will Rufe, who said the borough is an “underdog” compared to places like Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom when it comes to attracting qualified lifeguard applicants. “You guys have obviously shown that you have the resources to get the physical things done, but at the beginning of this debate–even before we talked about closing the pool down–it was a well-understood fact that the issue was going to come down to one thing, and that was manpower.”

“Realistically, people are not looking for summer jobs last September,” said Blatt, responding to a question by Brandon about why the search didn’t begin earlier. “We’re offering competitive pay.”

“We still want to continue doing the things so we can open the pool next year,” Johnson assured him.

She referenced a 2022 meeting held at St. Luke’s Hospital’s Laros auditorium to discuss various financial and other challenges related to the pool’s continued operation, where she said a majority of attendees said they wanted the pool to remain open but would not welcome a tax increase in order to pay for upgrades and other expenses.

Many public pools in the area have faced staffing and other challenges since the Covid-19 pandemic began, including Fountain Hill, which hasn’t been open for a full season since 2019.

The pool was closed during the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic, and the following summer was only open on a limited basis.

Following the 2022 forum, council voted last spring to permanently close the facility. It later reversed that decision following an outcry by residents, some of whom went on to form the FHCC.

The Fountain Hill Pool has not undergone major renovations since the early 1990s, and in addition to concrete seam and decking problems has been found to have a leak of undetermined origin.

FHCC volunteers have been planning to repair the seams using caulk purchased with the money raised by their fundraisers, with the expectation that the pool would open this summer.

In an email to the group’s membership Thursday, the board addressed the decision to keep the pool shuttered. FHCC was responsible for helping to recruit staff by “promoting the Borough’s search for lifeguards,” but it was ultimately the borough’s responsibility to provide the incentives that would attract applicants, it said.

“In terms of supporting the Borough’s search for lifeguards, Fountain Hill Community Coalition began soliciting lifeguards in January,” the letter said. “We reached out to BAVTS (Bethlehem Area Vocational Technical School) and advertised at Bethlehem, Allentown and Salisbury School districts. In fact, three of our Board members trained for and took lifeguard certification training in order to serve as guards. We contacted swim coaches and advertised on social media. Privately, we also offered a $50 incentive to lifesaving trainees to apply and consider employment. While proposed salaries were competitive, a central sticking point was not picking up the lifesaving training course fee–something routine in neighboring communities along with a sign-on bonus, which the Borough offered in 2021.”

In the email, the FHCC board also addressed its future plans now that the pool will remain closed this summer, and offered to refund donations to anyone who wants them returned.

“We will continue to be completely transparent about your donations. Every dollar collected is accounted for and, as promised, will be used to refurbish the pool,” it said. “If you feel we fell short this year and want your money back, that’s okay. … We understand and thank you for your support.”

“We intend to move the Coalition forward with a renewed commitment to building a stronger more connected community,” it concluded in the statement, which will be published in full on its Facebook page. “Our goal, assuming we are granted the opportunity, is to complete the deck caulking and paint the exterior of the locker room building in preparation for the 2024 season. … This will be done with the funds raised by the Coalition and volunteer labor, not your tax dollars. We will also continue our efforts to recruit staff for the upcoming year.”

The borough also posted an announcement about the pool decision on its website.

“The Borough is currently working on various updates and working with community stakeholders to have the pool ready for future use,” it said.

In other business, Fountain Hill Borough Council voted Monday to appoint Stewart McCandless to fill a council vacancy and also to hire borough public works manager Jason Quarry as interim borough manager at the same rate of pay as his predecessor.

The borough has been without a manager since earlier this spring, when borough manager Eric Gratz was placed on unpaid administrative leave after being charged by Lehigh County authorities with solicitation to commit prostitution. A preliminary hearing in his case is scheduled to be held Thursday, May 18 at 1 p.m. in Lehigh County District Court 31-3-02, according to court papers.

According to council’s April 19 meeting minutes, the borough planned to use the resources of Lafayette College’s Meyner Center for the Study of State & Local Government to recruit a replacement.

The minutes list the other candidate for the council vacancy as Adam Arnold. In applying to fill the vacancy, McCandless told council he views replacing the borough manager, “monitoring construction project and controlling costs” as the most pressing issues currently before council, according to the April 19 minutes.

The next Fountain Hill Borough Council meeting will be held Wednesday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall. Meetings are held in-person and streamed via the borough’s Facebook page.

For council meeting minutes and agendas, visit the borough’s website.

Note: Josh Popichak is a volunteer board member of the Fountain Hill Community Coalition.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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