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Governor awards swimming pool grants for Colorado communities Thursday

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Nine communities in southern Colorado are among the 71 receiving state funding to help keep swimming pools open this summer and offset the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Gov. Jared Polis' office released the list Thursday, two days after the deadline for applications, although some community officials said that they still hadn't been notified as of noon Thursday.

Of the local communities that applied, only Pueblo will receive the maximum amount of $25,000.

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"We're surprised to get that much," said Steven Meier, Pueblo's parks and recreation director. "We're fully staffed with lifeguards but only for the limited hours we're open. This money can allow us to open earlier and close later. We've even done some private swim events in an effort to try and extend hours."

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The city operates four outdoor pools -- including one at City Park, where Denise Valdez brought her family from Colorado Springs Thursday.

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"We drove down here from Pueblo because in Colorado Springs it's really hard to find a pool for the kids," she explained. "We tried to get a membership there, and they're just fully loaded. Not enough lifeguards."

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Colorado Springs, Woodland Park and Rocky Ford will each get $12,500; La Junta will receive $11,600; Manitou Springs will get $10,000 and Cañon City will receive $6,000.

Also receiving grants are the Ventana Metropolitan District in Fountain ($8,500) and the Banning Lewis Ranch Metropolitan District ($7,500).

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A shortage of lifeguards during the pandemic has forced many pools to reduce operating hours or close entirely, which limits swimming opportunities particularly during summer when outdoor pools open and swimming demand is at its highest.

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The funding will pay for hiring and training lifeguards and creating workforce flexibility for pool managers; the state labor department is also getting involved by paying a $1,000 stipend to lifeguard candidates who are hired after completing a 40-hour certification course.

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In addition, the labor department will help recruit and train lifeguards, and allow high school-age lifeguards to work a certain amount of overtime.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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