Local News

Smithfield investigating after Salvation Army campers turned away from town pool

Posted August 5, 2016 5:16 p.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2016 6:49 p.m. EDT

— Town officials are investigating after a Salvation Army official said a group of summer campers were thrown out of the Smithfield Recreation & Aquatics Center and told not to return.

The incident, which occurred in June, was brought up at a Town Council meeting this week.

"That's still mind-boggling," Councilman Marlon Lee said. "What are we covering up? What else has been covered up?"

Salvation Army Maj. Keri Booth said 35 campers were ordered to leave after an altercation in the pool between a camper and another boy, who camp director Alexa Lane said instigated the fight.

"We were told our children will never be members of SRAC. That may or may not be true," Booth said Friday.

Smithfield residents can buy memberships to use SRAC, while others, including the campers, can pay a daily fee to use the pool and rec center.

Booth said she believes the children were turned away because they are from low-income families, adding she doesn't believe there was any racial motivation.

"It's a have and a have-not town," she said. "It hurts me. I love these kids."

Tim Kerigan, Smithfield's director of human resources, said officials are interviewing SRAC staff about the incident, noting that the town doesn't discriminate in its public facilities based on people's socioeconomic status.

"We are going to do a full investigation, get all of those statements and find out exactly what happened," Kerigan said. "We do not turn people away – we should not. If that is the case, we've got a problem."

Since the incident, the Salvation Army has been taking the campers to a public pool in Wilson twice a week – a 40-minute ride compared with a mile-and-a-half trip to SRAC.

Kerigan said that the campers can return to SRAC anytime.

"They're welcome any day," he said.