SHREVEPORT, La. — Despite more than a decade of experience and a mountain of goodwill, the longtime manager of the city’s five pools no longer has the job.
Shelley McMillian, who runs the nonprofit group Rock Solid, says she was told by email from the city that the contract was going to an Atlanta-based company, USA Management. This company manages locations all over the country.
“I’m shocked. I’m confused,” McMillians said.
For most of the years operating the city pools, McMillian also ran Project Swim. He taught thousands of children to swim for free. This effort was born out of tragedy – the drowning deaths of six teenagers in the Red River in the summer of 2010.
“We’ve taught over 18,000 people to swim for free. We’ve had over 650,000 residents run in these pools in 13 years. We’ve never had a problem. We’ve never been called by the city to not doing a good job or not doing what we were supposed to do,” McMillian says.
McMillian says it wasn’t about the money. The contract is for a lump sum of $125,000 per year to staff, equip and operate the pools.
She thinks she came out the loser due to a minority stake factor in the application process.
“I heard from the vine that there is a Fair Share certification that USA Management may have had and we don’t,” she said.
“But when I applied, it said only for-profit businesses could apply. We’re a non-profit organization,” McMillian explained in not submitting that part.
McMillian says racial minorities are among his 80-person staff who were set to leave in early June.
McMillian says she didn’t get the interview before a selection committee she was promised before the decision was made.
Mayor Adrian Perkins told KTBS 3 News he had no details on the change. But his spokeswoman wrote in a statement, in part,
“Several companies submitted applications, and qualified applications were reviewed and scored by a committee. The highest-scoring candidate won the bid.”
Bad reviews have been posted online at USA Management.
“USA Management is a horrible, disreputable, inept pool management company,” Suzy K. wrote, adding that the app to train lifeguards didn’t work properly.
According to other reviews, the parents claim that the company did not pay their children who were lifeguards. They also say the pools were closed more than they were open because the lifeguards didn’t show up. Another reviewer complained about poor water quality. And a sub-contractor says the company hasn’t paid for his pool-heater installation work.
Asked about the negative reviews, Perkins spokeswoman Marquel Sennet replied: “The contract will contain a performance clause.”
Sennet says the city’s pools will be open June 7 through the end of July. The Southern Hills Pool will remain open Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day.
A civil servant with United States Management says their hiring process at Shreveport is underway.