West Boynton condo fight over water aerobics class like ‘battle of the titans’

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Frank Cerabino

Published March 8, 2013

There’s a rebellion of octogenarian women brewing at Palm Chase Lakes over a water aerobics class.

For the past quarter century, the women have gathered three mornings a week at the community pool in the suburban Boynton Beach condo without incident for a water exercise class. But things aren’t so simple anymore.

“The Palm Chase Lakes Board of Directors is concerned for the safety of its residents and guests when the electrical outlets at the pool are used for reasons other than maintenance procedures,” read the letter sent to Ellen Gartner, the 80-year-old ringleader of the water exercise enthusiasts.

Being denied an electrical outlet is a big deal to the water exercise class.

The class began about 25 years ago as a specific routine developed by a resident. Because that woman found it hard to narrate the workout while doing it, she recorded her voice on a cassette tape and then played the tape as the class followed her instruction.

That routine, which has outlived the woman who created it, was recorded again by current resident Esther Popkin, 88, and the recording was eventually transferred from cassette tape to a compact disk.

For three mornings a week, a couple of dozen women would retrieve their communal boom box from the nearby women’s restroom, plug it in near the pool, and play the CD with Popkin’s recorded voice guiding them through the 40-minute workout.

“We need the tape,” Popkin said. “Our memories aren’t that good anymore now that we’re in our 80s, so without it, we’d forget what to do next.”

The routine of the class was jolted in January after the condo elected a new president, Melvin Weinbaum, who found the arrangement too dangerous.

The women were using an extension cord on the pool deck, which was a tripping hazard, and placing the boom box too close to the pool, which was an electrical hazard, he said.

“It was dangerous,” class member Sylvia Pearlstein, 86, agreed. “So we removed it. But everything we did wasn’t good enough for him. For some reason, he’s got it against us.”

To make sure the women didn’t use the electrical outlet they had been using, Weinbaum had it locked.

“We didn’t want anybody getting hurt,” he said.

But that wasn’t the only electrical outlet available. There was one far away from the pool on the wall of the clubhouse by the water fountain. And no extension cord was necessary.

The women set the boom box on a table against the wall and plugged it into the outlet there. Problem solved?

Not according to the letter Gartner received last week from the condo board.

“We have consulted our attorney and he agrees that constitutes a serious liability issue for our association,” the letter said. “You and the other members of the water aerobics class are therefore requested to immediately desist in using the electrical outlets to operate your recorder.”

How can placing the box directly in front of the outlet far away from the pool be a serious liability issue?

“We’ve had people trip over car blocks in the parking lot and sue over it,” Weinbaum said. “The outlet is where people come out of the ladies room. They’re asking for trouble.”

Popkin thinks the only person looking for trouble is Weinbaum.

“He’ll do and say anything. Oh, he’s a character,” she said. “I’m glad I didn’t vote for him.”

Banning the use of all electrical outlets at the pool except for maintenance workers was news to Canadian snowbird Ginette Bourque, 64, who was one of only three residents to brave the chilly temperatures on Wednesday morning to do the pool exercise routine.

“We used the outlet with the radio on a table against the wall,” she said. “If somebody could trip over that, they’d have to be an acrobat.”

Weinbaum said there is a simple solution, and one the board’s letter mentions.

The women need to use batteries for their boom box.

“There’s a woman who already has a set of rechargeable batteries, but they won’t use them,” he said.

The batteries aren’t the solution, the women say.

“The charge lasts only for one class,” Gartner said.

So who gets the batteries to recharge for the next class? And what happens when that person doesn’t show up for the next class?

“Some people don’t even know how to put the batteries in,” she said.

So this one’s heading for a showdown at the next condo board meeting.

“It looks like a battle of the titans,” Bourque said.