Local pool builder leaves clients with cement ponds

It's swim season in Georgia, but some frustrated homeowners say this is their second summer they can't use their backyard pools. 

Some of their pool contracts with Aqua Blue Pools go back to 2021. These five families you're about to meet say they can finish each other's sentences when it comes to their experience with owner Rick McDermott - starts out good, lots of money paid out, then the work slows, and the pool is left incomplete.

"I have paid him out a little over $76,000," Tim Corrigan said. "And we are out about $45,000," added Sharon McCleskey.

All of these homeowners met over their bad relationship with their pool builder - Rick McDermott - the owner of Aqua Blue Pools out of Roswell. 

Jason Artusio and his wife Lisa signed a more than $95,000 contract with Aqua Blue Pools last May. Today, it's filled with dirty rainwater. You certainly can’t swim in it. 

She explains the progress. 

"A cement pool with a little waterline tile and coping, and a little bit of all built. And that’s about it."

Canceled checks show they paid the full amount. And a Roswell PD police investigator wrote that the pool was "observed to be uncompleted."

The FOX 5 I-Team met customers at Michele Kowanski’s house. This was not how she planned her first pool party, sitting on the steps of an unfinished but paid for pool.  

Michele said she consulted another pool company to find out what it would take to finish the job. She recalls one of her last chats with the Aqua Blue Pools owner.

"I said, Rick you’ve got $52,000 of our money. At best, you’ve done $20,000."

Tim Corrigan documented his case with the Paulding County Sheriffs Office.

"Rick moves very fast at first," he said. McCleskey chimed in, "He’s very personable."

But all five families said there’s a shift after their pool contractor gets toward the last big payment. 

Michele Kowanski told us, "He pretty much ghosted us."

"At the time of they dig your hole they have 50 percent of your money then he gets another 25 percent at tile," Corrigan said. "When he sets the tile, he’s got 75 percent of your money. His famous last words are, I’ll be out on Friday and then Friday doesn’t show up."

Then they all got this similar text from Rick McDermott, "....due to unforseen (sic) circumstances I am forced to shut down my company." He wrote that he is "filing corporate and personal bankruptcy."

He said the same to the FOX 5 I-Team.

"I'm in the process of filing bankruptcy.," he said. Also, admitting his company has been administratively dissolved for years.

"Two years, but I was unaware of it," he told us. 

But state records show it's actually been out of compliance for nearly six years.

"It just got crazy there with the economy, with COVID, shortages, price demands," Rick McDermott explained. "To be honest, what happened to me is I couldn't adjust my pricing fast enough to make up for the increases."

But in January Rick McDermott started a new company called Distinctive Pools.

"I was going to see if I could start a service company rather than a construction company, and do that on the side, but opted not to," he said.

A furious client with an unfinished pool started a Facebook group to chat about Aqua Blue Pools. The FOX 5 I-Team found jobs with "no permits." Many have had to hire "new contractors" to finish the work. There was "missing pool equipment." McDermott admitted to the FOX 5 I-Team these things are true. 

For the Findleys, they got a big surprise.

"We got lien paperwork against the electrical for $4,200," Christine Findley said. 

Every single family will have to have new companies come out to fix, repair, even finish their swimming pools. They've all filed police reports. They've all taken losses.

"We are not wealthy," Findley said. "We had to save up a lot of money to do this for many years. "   

Rick McDermott underscores his company's crumbling financial situation. 

"It's just an unfortunate situation. Just ran out of money."

The Artusios are too. It will cost so much money to finish the pool they paid for that it may be a very long time before they can save up to get the pool operating.