With Shreveport Pools In Turmoil, LDH Says Child Drownings Are Up
The City of Shreveport have found themselves embroiled in another controversy over government funding. This time, it involves the city's community pools. The cliff notes version of the story is that a local Shreveport-based company has been running the community pools for over a decade. That company is Rock Solid, is a nonprofit company owned by Shelly McMillian. They have been running Shreveport's five community pools for more than 10 years, but are now set to be replaced by a for-profit company for Georgia.
The new company is based in the Atlanta area, and is called USA Management.
They've operated under at least two names, we're not sure if they've replaced the name in the past, or operated under both at the same time. But they have been known as both USA Pools and USA Management. Under both names, they have run into legal issues due to their management.
In 2015, a 14-year-old had a near drowning incident in DeKalb County, Georgia. In that incident, it was revealed that the lifeguards provided by USA Pools/Management were not certified.
Then in 2018 a court ordered the company to pay millions in damages after a near drowning at the Chapel Hills Community Pool. During this litigation, USA Pools/Management was also accused of negligence and fraud. Here's what the Schneider Hammers law firms said about the case:
"While litigating the case, Schneider Hammers discovered that USA Pools committed acts of negligence as well as fraud. USA Pools misrepresented the nature of the company to its insurance provider and clients. For example, USA Pools told its insurance company it only cleaned pools while simultaneously marketing to its customers that it was a comprehensive pool safety and management company. USA Pools also represented it employed trained lifeguards when it did not train them and never tested their life saving skills. Even after Ashton’s near drowning, USA Pools did not train its lifeguards and continued to obtain pool management contracts while operating without proper insurance. The Fulton County judge found that USA Pools committed intentional fraud based on these misrepresentations."
Looking at just a few of the reviews online for the company continue to paint an unsavory picture of their work and history. Here are some quotes from their Yelp reviews:
"Our Association hired USA Pools to manage our neighborhood pool, and it turned out to be nothing short of a total nightmare. Lifeguard staff was not paid promptly (in fact, "bonuses" that were legitimately earned were never paid at all!), so several decided not to come back. Multiple "managers" were terminated or quit, so there was no consistency through the summer and strange people came in to guard and supervise who did not know what they were doing at all (one left the pool unattended when kids were in it!). Chemicals were not checked and balanced as required by common standards and the pool ultimately turned green and had to be closed. On top of all that, the person who sold us the service could never be reached once we signed the contract, and frantic messages were never returned. The people at the home office in GA were horribly rude and did not care about the problems were were experiencing. Finally, when they closed the pool for the winter they did not drain the lines and water was left above the jets, so we had to hire another service to come in and properly winterize the pool. Needless to say, we no longer use their "service." All I can say is beware!"
"We hired them to help us with our lifeguards. They have the worst customer service and are non responsive. Our lifeguards did not get their uniforms until a month after their contract started, they do not get paid on time and their hours are constantly a mess. I was the one to hire USA Management and outsource to them and they do not respond to me at all despite the constant emails I send. I have been through five different managers because they all either quit or get fired. We will not be hiring them next year and I plan to look into other companies that I have heard work a lot better. DO NOT HIRE THESE PEOPLE! THEY NEED TO BE SHUT DOWN!"
Similar complaints are echoed on the Better Business Bureau website. Here are some of the reviews for USA Management on their site:
"ZERO STARS USA Management - do not bother to hire them. The City of Bowling Green contracted with them to run the municipal pool. Big mistake. They hired a local person to run our pool and also hired a few lifeguards. The City was given a USA rep to contact, but he left with no warning. USA didn't even know he had left or was unreachable until we called them. On to rep #2. She ups and leaves also, and USA does not let the City know. On to rep #3. We had to call and find out who our new rep was. You could never get them to answer the phone or return your phone call. Lifeguards paid up front for suits, whistles, etc., but some didn't receive them and still don't have their money back."
"...hands down biggest nightmare of my life! Unprofessional, disorganized, incompetent are just a few of the words to describe USA pools and the associated staff if you are lucky enough to even make it to pool season.
We signed contracts and then were completely forgotten about. I (Property Manager) finally reached out and was put in touch with our regional representative who didn't seem to have a clue when we could even expect a team out to assess the pools. This was mid April 2019. After several screaming phone calls and threats to get our attorney involved, they had us begin the work on opening our own pool. We drained it refilled it, put out all of our own pool furniture, cleaned our own deck, started up and troubleshooted our own equipment before anyone from or contracted by USA pools even showed up in MID MAY. Thank goodness the company they contracted stayed in contact with us or the pool would be a green disaster.
Not only did we open our own pool but we were also charged with staffing it! Yep that's right! Because this stellar company has a reputation for not paying it's lifeguards, they had a hard time finding people who would be willing to work for them."
You can find the exact same scenarios from these reviews on other sites, like Glassdoor and Indeed. The company, USA Management, even has a history replying to these type of reviews in an aggressive way. Calling reviewers liars, and accusing city representatives of "creating toxic environments."
Now as the City of Shreveport looks to align with the USA Pools/Management company, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is out with a new dire statistic.
LDH has announced that for the second straight year, child drownings in the state have increased. According to LDH statistics, drownings were the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in children under 14, between 2017-2019. In 2020, Louisiana saw one of the deadliest years for child drownings in history, with the state experiencing a 60% increase. That number increased again in 2021.
According to LDH, the top risk factors for childhood drowning deaths include children who are unable to swim (96%), unsupervised children (72%), and no barriers to water (54%).