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Safety first: Enjoying the water requires vigilance

Safety first: Enjoying the water requires vigilance

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Many years ago, intent on avoiding another high school summer spent bagging fast food orders or waiting tables, I came up with what I immediately knew was the plan of all plans.

Rather than spend my time sweltering in a kitchen, I would spend it at the pool. I would join the ranks of those brilliant classmates who arrived at work each day in a bathing suit and returned to school in the fall with golden tans and stuffed savings accounts. That’s right: I was going to be a lifeguard.

While not in any way qualified for the position in terms of knowledge, I did have at least one thing going for me: my mother, a strong swimmer and former Water Safety Instructor, had my sister and me in the water from the time we were born. The pool had always been a second home — so why couldn’t it now be my office as well?

As it turned out, lifeguard jobs were plentiful in those years and the required training wasn’t unbearably difficult. They wanted to make sure you could swim reasonably well and knew what to look out for while keeping watch. When it came time to complete a mock rescue, as long as you didn’t toss out, say, a deck chair instead of the ring buoy, or claim you’d rather not get your hair wet, you were probably going to pass.

In fact, it wasn’t until one of the very last nights that the instructors hit us with the lesson that would very quickly reframe what exactly we were about to sign up for. That night we didn’t get in the water, and instead were ushered into a classroom filled with a dozen or so desks and a television. For the next two hours, we watched in silence as the instructor played videos of former lifeguards describing the accidents that had happened on their watch, and the people that they hadn’t been able to save. It was wrenching. By the time we were dismissed that night, two things had been made perfectly clear: Being a lifeguard was about far more than catching a tan, and life-altering accidents could happen in the blink of an eye.

I did end up getting a lifeguarding job that summer, and eventually went on to teach swimming lessons. And one of the first things we would go over in any of my classes was how to stay safe in and around the water. Some children I worked with loved the water and others were terrified, but my goal first and foremost was to make sure they respected it.

As you head out to beat the heat this summer at the beach, the river, the lake or the pool, I hope you have a wonderful time. More importantly, however, I hope you enjoy yourself safely and look out for those around you. Don’t take chances when it comes to the water, and don’t put yourselves or others in potentially dangerous situations.

Oh, and if you happen to see a lifeguard somewhere perched on a chair or strolling around a pool deck, please be a dear and do what they say.

I promise he or she only has your best interest at heart— and they might even save your life.


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An effort by a local church to get into the restaurant business is not sitting will with its neighbors, and now it will be up to county supervisors to decide whether or not to allow the project to move forward.

On July 8, Hope Church’s plan to create a café-style eating establishment within their current church building, located at 12445 Patterson Ave., went before county Planning Commissioners. And while the new venture was described by pastor David Dwight as a simple, small-scale project intended to offer coffee and café-style fare with limited cooking, several county residents living near the church say they already feel like they’ve been burned.

As detailed in the church’s request for an amendment to its original Conditional Use Permit (CUP), opening the planned café and coffee shop would require some renovation to the existing structure — and the installation of commercial kitchen equipment--but no modifications to the outside of the church. Kitchen renovations will not be permitted to include the installation of a hood system for ventilation, which will limit the type of cooking that can be done and also prevent any odors from impacting nearby properties.

According to the request, the church will be entering into an agreement with the owners of Toast, who also own other dining establishments in the area and are members of the church, to create and operate the coffee shop and café.

Dwight explained that the café would not be run as a for-profit enterprise, although the church leadership’s goal would be to break even if possible. If necessary, Dwight said, the church would be willing to provide a reasonable amount of support to the café.

According to Dwight, the project would rely on microwaves and small convection ovens to reheat pre-prepared foods, and would not be expected to see numbers even close to the 75 occupants that would be allowed under the CUP. Above all, he insisted, the café would offer “a place for people to gather together, especially after COVID, without the pressure of a commercially driven enterprise.”

But while Dwight described the café as “a ministry that welcomes people in,” those living near the church have made clear the church is already beginning to wear its own welcome thin.

Several residents of the Rivergate neighborhood, which is located directly adjacent to Hope Church, said they are already dealing with significant noise issues stemming from church-related activities, including the use of what they described as bullhorns and “nightclub-style” thumping music.

It has made it impossible to enjoy the tranquility they had been seeking when they moved to the neighborhood, they said, adding that the problem is worse during the fall and winter when there are no leaves on the trees.

“In my opinion the church is more an events space than a church,” said Rob Allen, who lives directly across the street from the church. “They are holding these events in their parking lot. So this restaurant may be serving inside but it may be serving inside while there are events outside that is supporting. So 75 limit? They can count the 1,000 people in the parking lot and say there is only 60 inside and they are still within compliance.”

Allen said he had already called the Sheriff’s Department once, and “I will continue to call them when the noises are too much to bear.”

Ileana Shulman told commissioners that she finds the claim that the church will be selling essentially just “cookies and coffee” difficult to believe, and agreed with several other residents that allowing the café would only exacerbate existing noise issues.

While the ultimate decision on whether to approve the church’s request rests with the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commissioners appeared to hear residents’ concerns loud and clear.

“Obviously there is a great deal of opposition to this,” said District 2 Commissioner Matt Brewer. “I don’t see how we could recommend approval.”

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