Pool openings now allowed in New York, but did one company get a head start?

Colley Pools owner says he did nothing wrong
Posted at 5:32 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 17:47:21-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — New York's PAUSE order means that all non-essential businesses must shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there has been confusion about what is legal when it comes to opening your pool for the season.

Like many pool stores in Western New York, business at Majestic Pools and Spas has come to a halt for owner John Bunch.

“We’re not doing any inground pool work at all,” Bunch said last week. “Zero.”

As of last week, Majestic and other pool stores also were not opening pools. But it was a different story at Colley Pools in Hamburg, where trucks left the store last week on their way to deliveries and pool openings.

“We’re all up in arms over it because it's not fair that we can't work and we're abiding by, you know, the law, and these guys are out there doing all this working,” Bunch said.

The Northeast Spa & Pool Association last week said guidance from the state made it clear that “pool opening has NOT been determined to be an essential business.” But 7 Eyewitness News cameras spotted a worker from Colley Pools taking what appeared to be a winter cover off of a backyard pool in Niagara County last Wednesday -- three days before state officials said they would allow pool openings.

Colley’s acknowledges that it has been opening pools, but owner Scott Colley said he called the state for clarification and never heard back. And as of Friday, New York State is now allowing companies to open pools.

Reached last week, Colley said by phone, “We are opening pools. I’m trying to do the right thing by my customers. I’m not doing anything that I’m not allowed to do.”

Colley said officials in some towns, as well as a state senator, also gave him the OK, though Colley would not name the towns or the senator.

Empire State Development spokeswoman Pamm Lent said in a statement, “Businesses that provide ‘essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other businesses’ including general maintenance are deemed essential. While this does not explicitly mention service related to the opening and maintaining swimming pools, it would include any service to ensure the safety, sanitation and general operations of the residence or building.”

Lent said social distancing must be maintained during any pool openings. She stressed that state officials are not giving the OK to have any sort of pool parties during the pandemic.

The construction of new pools is still banned under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York PAUSE restrictions.

A spokeswoman for the State Attorney General’s Office said the AG is looking into this issue. State officials urged New Yorkers to report any non-essential businesses remaining open at this link, or by calling 1-833-789-0470.