Monticello pool to open with heavy restrictions

The Monticello Aquatic Center is implementing some new changes to the operations at the pool this summer. Aside from limiting capacity and patrons, swimming lessons will also be conducted one-on-one privately rather than in a group. (Express file photo)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     It appears as though the Monticello Aquatic Center can open as early as June 29 if everything goes as planned between now and then.

     Parks and Rec employees Shannon Poe (pool director) and Jacob Oswald talked with the Monticello City Council about their concerns during the June 15 council meeting. (That story appeared in the June 17 Express.)

     Since then, Poe and Oswald have released a set of new rules and regulations that must be followed upon opening for the season, albeit a short summer season.

     Access to the pool this year will only be granted to Jones County residents. During the first hour of operation, 1-2 p.m. Monday through Friday, only Monticello residents will be admitted to give them a head start on other patrons.

     “The Park Board and city council wanted to give Monticello residents access first because it’s those folks who support us through tax dollars,” noted Poe.

     From noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Monticello city and school district residents will only be admitted. From 2-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, all Jones County pool pass holders can access the pool, and again from 4-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

     All patrons must possess a pool pass for admittance into the Aquatic Center, as well as proof of residency. Staff will not be handling paper money.

     Poe said they’ve issued physical pool passes before now.

     Due to COVID-19, the pool’s Memorial Day weekend opening was delayed. Several swimming pools in the area (Dyersville, Mount Vernon, Cedar Rapids) have chosen to remain closed for the summer. Monticello, Cascade, and Hopkinton pools have decided to re-open, but with strict guidelines.

     “The safety and wellbeing of our staff and patrons is our number one priority,” noted Parks and Rec. “Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we will be taking extra steps to follow the necessary measures to prevent any spread. This pool season will look different from past seasons and we ask you for your patience and understanding.”

     In addition to the passes, patrons must also purchase lunch cards for use at the concession stand, which will offer only prepackaged food items. Again, money will not be exchanged.

     The following rules also apply this season:

     • All patrons must social distance 6 feet from those outside of their household

     • Facemasks are encouraged while out of the water

     • Children who cannot social distance, those 10 and under, must be accompanied by someone 15 or older

     • No pool toys allowed

     • Once daily capacity is met, no new patrons will be admitted until others exit. (The pool will operate at 50-percent capacity.)

     • The waterslide will be off limits to patrons due to issues with social distancing

     • No deck chairs will be in use. Patrons can bring their own chairs in.

     Poe said they consulted numerous sources in order to put together local guidelines: CDC, Jones County and Linn County Public Health departments, the Red Cross, and the pool’s health inspector.

     “We also relied heavily on the Iowa Parks and Rec Association,” Poe added. Oswald and Poe repeatedly met via Zoom with Parks and Rec directors and pool managers from across the state.

     “LCPH had firm advice not to open (the pool),” shared Poe. “Linn County municipal pools are closed to the public.”

     In terms of what rules to implement locally, Poe said they just chose to follow the recommendations that were the most manageable and most important to reduce the spread of the virus.

     “The Park Board went along with our recommendations,” she said. “I’m comfortable we can open the pool, and I hope people understand what we’re up against and try to make the best of the situation.”

     Before the pool could open, Poe said she’s been busy recruiting lifeguards and training them all on the new rules.

     “There’s different protocol to be aware of,” she said. “They need to know their own placement when not in the deck chairs, different stations and social distancing. Our staff needs to set an example for patrons.” Poe is also training staff on customer service, noting that people will likely be upset regarding the new rules.

     Typically the pool needs between 22 and 25 lifeguards, staff, and pool assistants. With reduced capacity, Poe said they could operate with about 20.

     “It’s been hard to recruit and difficult to find enough people for the hours,” she said. “We need more assistants so we don’t have staff burnout.” Those staff/assistants do not have to be certified; just the lifeguards.

     The community has inquired about swimming lessons. No group lessons will be conducted this summer; just private, one-on-one lessons.

     This will also be a shortened season for the Parks and Rec swim team, running July 1 through Aug. 7. The team will be limited to just Monticello school district residents only. (For more on the swim team, read the article inside this week’s Express on A14.)

     Poe warned that while June 29 was the target date to re-open the pool, that date is not a guarantee.

     “We’ll open as soon as the safety measures are in place,” she said.

     To inquire about purchasing pool passes and concession punch cards, call Parks and Rec at 319-465-6640.


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