BEND, OR -- A local woman has been told by the state to halt private swim lessons at her home, until she can comply with state rules governing public pools. Mary McCool has taught swimming in a custom pool at her property east of Bend for a number of years. She says her pool is only used by clients accepted into her program, not the general public, and therefore should not be considered a "public" facility. She sent a letter to clients, this week, outlining the situation and explaining that a variance to continue operations was recently denied by the Oregon Health Authority.
Letters supporting McCool and her swimming school poured in to state and county officials this week, after she went public, prompting Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone to ask that the issue be added to the agenda for Wednesday's work session. He tells KBND News, "The community’s engaged, there’s some history here; people aren’t happy with the results from the state."
McCool's unique pool and teaching approach were featured in the Bulletin, in October. DeBone says problems arose when county code enforcement responded to an inquiry, "Last fall, it started – maybe somebody asked the question, ‘oh, are you a publicly certified pool?’ And then we look at the rules and regulations. It went right back to the Oregon Health Authority; a variance was requested and the variance was denied for the existing pool- the existing structure."
At Wednesday's meeting Commissioners acknowledged the variance denial was issued by the state not county. However, DeBone says they are supportive of finding a solution, "If it’s a gray area, where somebody at the state level needed to make a decision and they went one way, and they’re justified because of the statutes and the way the law is set up, maybe this is going to end up in a Legislative session."
In a letter to McCool's supporters, a representative from the OHA says, "We would certainly like Mary to be able to continue providing swimming lessons, and are actively looking for a ways [sic] to make this happen."