Though Dawson County pools both private and public have started to reopen for summer activities with new safety procedures, residents of the Creekstone subdivision off Hwy. 53 in Dawsonville say they are disappointed and confused by the decision of a private HOA management company to keep their pool closed through the pandemic. According to the management company, the reason the pool hasn’t been opened yet is because there isn’t a way to do so while still ensuring the safety of the residents.
“Everything gets blamed on [COVID-19] which doesn’t make any sense since all other community pools are open, schools are opening, stores are opened and so on,” Creekstone resident Amanda Mathis said.
Mathis, who is a member of the homeowners board, said that she has suggested several different ideas for how to go about safely opening the pool, but none have been accepted by the HOA company, Advantage Community Management, which is based out of Suwanee.
“I have suggested everything because I’ve talked to people in other communities about what they’re doing, so like some of them aren’t putting out any pool furniture and I think everyone in the neighborhood would be fine with that,” Mathis said. “I’ve sent them examples of signs I’ve seen about ‘enter at your own risk’ or waivers that some communities have had people sign, but they’re just not giving us any options.”
Merrill Walker, president of the management company, said that the reason the pool hasn’t opened is because Creekstone is a neighborhood that is still under construction and therefore can’t afford to open while still ensuring the safety of the residents.
“You would have to absolutely meet all of the criteria that the governor and the CDC has laid out, so you would just about have to have a full-time person on staff for that sort of thing,” Walker said. “Creekstone is just an underdeveloped neighborhood that doesn’t have the funds yet to pay for someone to take care of the pool full-time.”
Walker also said that the decision isn’t the management company’s to make, but is instead the decision of the builder, Hardeman Communities.
“We don’t make the decisions, we give the information to the board of directors with the builder and let them make that decision,” Walker said. “We want the pool to be open of course; I manage other neighborhoods that haven’t opened their pools yet either, so some have and some haven’t.”
Beyond the pool closure, Creekstone residents like Jean Christol say that another frustration is that all of the neighborhood residents paid their full amount of homeowner’s dues at the beginning of the year and have not been granted a refund, despite not being allowed to use the pool.
“Our dues are $425 a year, and I know not all of that goes to the pool but a lot of it does,” Christol said. “And they’re still paying to keep the pool cleaned, but they wouldn’t give us our dues back when we asked. If they’re not going to let us use the pool, they should have just drained it, cancelled the maintenance contract and given us our dues back.”
According to Christol, the pool maintenance company has still been coming out regularly to clean the pool, and at one point the management company even put out all the pool furniture.
“At that point there weren’t any signs saying, ‘pool closed’, so for someone thinking of buying a home in the subdivision they see this pretty pool with the beautiful clear water which is a selling point to sell more homes,” Christol said.
Walker says that the reason the dues haven’t been refunded is because the management company has a contract with the pool maintenance company.
“We have a contract with them, so yes they’re still coming out and cleaning it,” Walker said. “We’re trying to make sure it doesn’t turn green or anything like that.”
The latest information the management company has given the residents is that the pool may be allowed to open in mid-August, and Walker says he has personally been working with homeowners on a plan to make that reopen date happen.
“There is a bill, House Bill 167, that’s sitting on the governor’s desk right now,” Walker said. “If that bill goes into law on Aug. 7, that will allow us to be able to reevaluate opening the pool then.”
HB 167, according to Walker, would affect the liability of companies, like Advantage Community Management, if someone were to contract COVID-19. But even if the pool does open, many residents view this as too little too late, according to Christol.
“The latest they’re saying now is that they may open it Aug. 8, but a lot of the kids are gonna be going back to school soon,” Christol said. “So all summer long we’ve pretty much been held hostage by not being able to use our pool.”
Mathis, who is a mother of three, said that not being able to swim over the summer has come as a huge disappointment to her children.
“My 9-year-old is a week away from going back to school, and he hasn’t even gotten to be able to have a summer pool experience other than when we went on vacation,” Mathis said. “I’ve been in Gwinnett county where their cases are triple our numbers and their pools are open, so it just doesn’t make any sense that even our public pool is open but our private community pool isn’t.”
Walker said that his company doesn’t make the decisions and is trying its best to get the pool reopened soon.
“There are so many issues involved with this virus and it’s been a crazy thing for us all; it’s turned our world upside down,” Walker said. “But we don’t make the decisions, and we’re trying our best to get that pool open the same as any pool.”