Burgess baby pool closed; two children hospitalized after gas exposure


Two children who were playing in the Burgess baby pool in Menlo Park on Aug. 10 had reactions to a "gaseous substance" apparently due to a mechanical problem with the chlorination system at the pool, the city of Menlo Park reported today (Aug. 18) in a press release.

"Safety personnel responded immediately to care for the two children, who are recovering," according to the press release.

The baby pool was closed immediately and "will remain closed until the cause of the incident can be determined, all repairs are made, and all safety inspections are passed," the city said.

Mayor Rich Cline, who said he heard about the incident a day or two after it happened, said the children were treated at Stanford hospital for a day or two, but are now at home. He said he understands their condition is "better than it could be."

Asked about the city's delay in reporting the incident, he said. "I'm not sure I understand what the city was doing, maybe gathering more information." He noted the complication of having a third party in charge of the pool (Menlo Swim and Sport) and "having to work through (Tim) Sheeper (who heads Menlo Swim and Sport) to get details of what happened."

Asked why it took eight days to report the incident, Katrina Whiteaker, who is recreation services manager for the city, said, "We were still investigating the incident and trying to figure out exactly what happened."

With regard to the ages and condition of the children, she said the city is not giving out any more information about the family at this time.

Design and engineering experts are evaluating the problem at the pool, the city said in the press release.

Menlo Swim and Sport, which operates the pools, and city staff said they anticipate the baby pool will reopen sometime in September. The closure does not affect lessons and programs conducted by Menlo Swim and Sport in the performance and instructional pools.

City Manager Glen Rojas expressed concern for the children affected and their family, the press release said. "While the City does not believe there is an ongoing problem, we will keep the Baby pool closed until we can open it with certainty that participants will be safe," he was quoted as saying in the press release.

Tim Sheeper, executive director of Menlo Swim and Sport, was quoted as saying, "… we're doing everything we can to understand what went wrong and ensure measures are taken to prevent anything like this in the future."

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Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 18, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Can anyone explain why on Earth the town of Menlo Park would be involved in owning a swimming facility, and being exposed to the liabilities thereof? It makes absolutely no sense to me at all.

Like this comment
Posted by Hooray for the RFP
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2010 at 8:44 pm

This is the second time that children have been seriously affected by a malfunction in the baby pool. Another example of Sheeper's inattention to the children's programs?

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Joe Davis said "explain why on Earth the town of Menlo Park would be involved in owning a swimming facility"

Well, Joe because cities provide recreational facilities for their residents. The following cities on this side of the Bay provide city pool facilities for their residents - San Francisco, So San Francisco, Pacifica, San Bruno, San Mateo, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, San Jose, Morgan Hill, Daly City, Brisbane, Burlingame, Sunnyvale and Menlo Park.
So Joe what about Woodside? Oh yeah you guys in Woodside are all so rich you all have your own private pools.
[Portion deleted. Please try to avoid attacking other posters.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 19, 2010 at 9:09 am

Sounds suspicious to me. Could it be someone with a vested interest in not having Tim Sheeper to continue running the pool who tampered with the equipment? Who knows? The Menlo Park PD should conduct a full investigation to ensure that it was aan equipment malfunction and not tampering.

And waht about the City of Menlo Park? Why are they not doing their proper job of inspection?

Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Bob, there are certainly a lot of cities out there with misguided (I would even say deranged) policies. There is no reason for any city to provide pool facilities.

Like this comment
Posted by Mom of Two
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Aug 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Since when is it misguided and deranged to provide recreational facilities for residents? I grew up in Palo Alto and everyone swam at Rinconada Park. Most cities (suburban) that I know of provide a community pool, gym, park, etc.

I'm not sure where you get the notion that city-provided recreational services are a bad idea.

Like this comment
Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm

The only other chlorination problem occurred before the last Menlo Park election, in an attempt to return the pool to a city/union run operation. The City is now issuing an RFP for the pool, and the timing for this inciden is suspicious. Hope the investigation considers "sabotage" as a cause.

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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 19, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Mom, I understand that many cities do this. What I do not understand is why. What does Menlo Park bring to the table in terms of owning a pool facility? Why should Menlo Park provide pool facilities and not movie theaters, restaurants, grocery shops, etc.?

Like this comment
Posted by Swimmer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Henry Fox is spot on. Tim was also on vacation when it happened and a city union worker could have easily got in without being noticed. Why does this only happen when Tim's contract is being considered every 4 years?

Union workers stand to gain $600,000 to $700,000 a year from the City if it goes back to them. The stakes are high.

Like this comment
Posted by Questioning
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I don't believe in coincidence. Four years ago during the last council election, the San Mateo County Labor Council asked the then canidates Robinson and Cline if elected would they return the Burgess Pool programing and operations over to the City as soon as possible. These candidates got elected with the Union endorsement and help. Fast forward four years, these candidates are now incumbents. And, Mayor Cline gives comments to this paper about how the time lag in letting the public know about this most current incident (the first and last, until now, one was during the council election four years ago!) was largely because the pool is being operated by a non-City employee.

I guess the unions may be getting a payment on their investment. Watch very carefully what happens when the RFP for the pool is discussed at the Aug. 24th Council meeting. If the council members support adding the City to the mix of applicants --- (NOTE: the Staff does not recommend this.) the voters will know what's what.

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah Eisner
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Tim Sheeper is a father of three and a meticulous manager of Burgess Pool (as well as one of the best swim coaches, and human beings I've ever known). Shame on the people who choose to slam him without knowing the full story.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Swimmer
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm

[Post removed; unsubstantiated accusations of criminal behavior violate terms of use.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hooray for the RFP
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 19, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Given all the parents who have had negative experiences with the kids' programs, this incident has Sheeper's-too-focused-on-the-masters-to-care-about-the-tots written all over it. He can't make nearly as much money off the kids as he can off the masters!

Like this comment
Posted by please chill
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 20, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Even if some union leaders might dream about the pool operation returning to the city, I really don't believe any would risk hurting swimmers. It seems an unfortunate incident, and it should be investigated to ensure all possible measures are taken to avoid it happening again.
Please don't jump to conspiracy theories before there's any evidence of tampering. Believe it or not, things wear out, accidents happen, and sometimes people good. Tampering is low odds.

Like this comment
Posted by Think this through
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 11:35 am

The revenue produced from swimming lessons is substantial. Parents that utilize the baby pool would logically choose Menlo Swim and Sport for future swimming lessons, especially with the bubble that covers the instructional pool in the winter. Tim Sheeper would obviously want these prospective parents to choose his swimming program over others and would do everything in his power to maintain a safe baby pool.

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