Just in case the many voices complaining about burdensome federal over-regulation had run out of gripes, the Department of Justice has kindly offered one more unnecessary and intrusive requirement to add to the list.
As hotel owners and hospitality industry folks up and down the Grand Strand are well aware, the Justice Department has decided to require fixed pool lifts at every publicly accessed pool in the nation. On its face, the rule is well meaning. Disabled patrons deserve the chance to enjoy the swimming pool at their hotel or in their neighborhood just the same as everybody else. But good intentions seem to have trumped common sense.
Many hotels already own portable pool lifts that can be used when necessary. They allow a facility to buy one piece of costly equipment and use it at multiple sites, to help someone today in the main pool, for instance, and tomorrow at the lazy river. It’s hard to see how requiring a fixed lift -- which can cost up to $20,000 to buy and install -- would be a major improvement. Fixed pool lifts could also be dangerous for children, especially in pools unguarded by lifeguards, who could make sure that they do not play with the equipment.
Like anyone else, we are sensitive to the plight of those in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled who would like to enjoy the same amenities as others. At the same time, a one-size-fits-all diktat requiring new equipment at every spa, pool or lazy river is going too far. Should some method for ensuring access be required? Yes. But as long as that method is prompt, efficient and easily available it should not matter whether it is attached to the side of the pool or not.
After hearing complaints from across the industry, the Justice Department thankfully extended its original March 15 deadline for compliance by 60 days and is now considering an even longer six-month extension. Public comments on that proposal are due by April 4. It’s encouraging to see that the department is taking a second look at its rules. And S.C. congressmen have also taken up the fight. U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney is battling the act, and Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham have introduced legislation to rescind the lift requirements. Nevertheless, it would be dangerous for hoteliers (or rental home owners) to hold their breath for a change. Fines for first offenses can top $50,000, a costly chance to take.
Meanwhile, there may be one way hoteliers could recoup some of their costs. With hundreds of thousands of public pools in the nation and a backlog of lifts to be made and installed, it could be time to buy some stock in pool lift manufacturers.
Local residents looking to get more involved or learn more about the communities where they live have two good but different events today to choose from.
First, the North Myrtle Beach Community Prayer Breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the J. Bryan Floyd Community Center, 1030 Possum Trot Road, in North Myrtle Beach. It’s a good opportunity for anybody to meet with community leaders in a nonpolitical setting and to join in the wishes for the ongoing health and success of the city and its residents.
If you didn’t wake up quite early enough for the prayer breakfast, you still have time to check out another way to learn more about the area and how it works. The Horry County Solid Waste Authority is hosting an open house today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at their facility at 1186 S.C. 90 in Conway. Visitors can tour the landfill and recycling center and learn just what happens when they put their trash out at the curb.
Either event would be well worth the time of interested residents.