The Alexandria City Council last week gave condominium associations the right to swim in their own pools without lifeguards being present, but warned the associations that the rights would be withdrawn if there were problems.
Because of the city code, condominiums have been legally treated as apartment buildings, and as such, residents were forbidden from swimming unless a lifeguard were on duty and forbidden from bringing food any closer than 20 feet from the pool.
However, as a sign of the growing strength of the three dozen condo associations, whose 16,500 members represent 13.5 percent of the city population, the council last week amended the city health code so the condo associations can decide what they want to do. The condo owners claimed they were being discriminated against since they paid the same property taxes as homeowners, but were being treated like renters.
Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr. warned the condo representatives "if we have any bad experiecnes here I would move to turn this around. This is an area of experiment."
Beatley and other officials have previously expressed concern that if large groups of people were permitted to use condo pools without trained supervision, there might be accidents or injuries. The vote in favor of the measure was 5-to-2, with council members Nelson E. Greene Sr. and Marie Inman voting against it.
The council also approved a plan for a first-run movie theater in The Trade Cener complex in the West End. The only negative vote was cast by Ring.
The council narrowly avoided a heated debate on whether to suspend a permit of the once-scandal ridden bingo game sponsored by the Montessori School of Alexandria, Inc. The game grosses more than $300,000 each quarter, according to its own reports.
Under state law, bingo operations are required to state how many paid employes of the games they have and how much money is spent by operators on expenses other than those associated with prizes.
However, the school failed to meet the deadline for filing the reports, which was added to state requirements in part because of problems associated with the Montessori games. In a trial two years ago, the school's founder and president, Dirgham Salahi testified he had skimmed $32,000 from the proceeds in order to pay former Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney William L. Cowhig for protection against prosecution. Cowhig denied the charges at two city trials. Cowhig, who now lives in Florida, was acquitted of the charges.
When the school last failed to meet the deadline, "they were at least in technical violation of the law," council member Casey said, and their bingo permit was in danger of revocation. The permit was not lifted because city finance department staffers decided to check with city attorneys to make sure they could lift the permit. By the time they checked, the school had filed the forms.
Council member Ring, however, noted that "henceforth there will be no waiver for administration reasons by the staff."
Casey then told the city staff to "carefully audit the new figures." Among other things, city officials want to know why the school spent $20,000 in legal fees.