Pool opening postponed, library urged to open

City Council
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Despite the Monticello Park Board’s reluctant decision to close the Aquatic Center for the 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Monticello City Council chose to postpone the eventual opening until an indefinite date.

     Parks and Rec staff Jacob Oswald and Shannon Poe presented CDC guidelines concerning swimming pools Monday night during the May 18 city council meeting. Over the last month and a half, Oswald and Poe have taken part in several online discussions regarding pools, and have talked to other communities to see what’s being done this summer across the state.

     “There are a lot of questions and few answers at this point,” said Oswald.

     He said if the pool does open this summer, whether on time or not, there would be significant staffing concerns. One, more staff would be needed to police social distancing guidelines inside and outside of the pool, as that is not the job of a lifeguard. Two, the Red Cross has put lifeguard training on hold, and several lifeguards might need to be recertified or even certified at the basic level.

     Some of the CDC guidelines include:

     • All patrons and staff must wear masks unless in the water

     • All patrons must observe social distancing in and out of the pool

     • Frequent disinfecting of all services

     • Increased signage of new rules/regulations

     There have also been numerous questions raised:

     • Should patrons sign waivers due to the contact spread of COVID-19?

     • If staff get sick, does the pool shut down for 14 days?

     • How will the Aquatic Center get enough PPE to disinfect every surface?

     • Can they still hold swimming lessons if the pool is closed to the public?

     If the pool remains closed for the season, Parks and Rec is still recommending the city fill the pool to allow the pumps and equipment to run properly. This is still an expense no matter what.

     Council member Gary Feldmann reminded everyone that the CDC also required everyone in the council chambers to wear masks, and yet that practice was not adhered to Monday night.

     “This shutdown experiment has gone on long enough,” he said. “I would not support closing the pool.” He said he would still take their kids to the pool this summer.

     Additionally, Feldmann asked whether it was a recommendation or a law that people have to social distance.

     “It’s a recommendation,” City Administrator Doug Herman answered, “but it can be very burdensome (for staff to police).”

     Council member Dave Goedken commented that social distancing is not the mentality of everyone right now. “It won’t be followed and you can’t enforce it,” he said.

     He also suggested the city hold off on any decision, perhaps not even opening until early July. Oswald and Poe said they would need at least two weeks, at a minimum, to get things up and running before opening day. This would require a council decision in the next couple of weeks.

     Furthermore, Goedken said if the city allowed swimming lessons, then the pool should also be open to the public at that point.

     Council member Candy Langerman said the Governor hasn’t even allowed pools to open statewide yet, so there’s no rush in making a decision until that time.

     “I would love to see the pool open,” said Herman, “but in a reasonable fashion.”

     Goedken also asked whether it would be hard to hire staff if the pool were only open for a short time. Feldmann felt that with the lack of jobs in the community for young people, it wouldn’t be an issue.

     Also concerning public services, the council discussed operations at the library and staffing hours.

     Mayor Brian Wolken asked whether library staff were working their full hours despite the library being closed to the public. “It’s a growing concern that they’re getting paid full-time with reduced hours,” he said.

     Wolken encouraged the library to open curbside pick-up sooner rather than later “to provide a service to the community as a whole.”

     Library Director Michelle Turnis and Board President Kim Brooks informed the council that the library board was meeting on Tuesday, May 19 to discuss a phased-in opening, beginning with curbside services.

     “No other library around us has opened,” Turnis said, despite the Governor allowing libraries to do so statewide.

     Goedken praised the library for taking public health measures into account.

     In terms of staff hours, Turnis said the three remaining employees have been working from home and putting time in at the library to plan an alternative to Summer Reading. Staff have also been using personal time and vacation to make up for their full-time wages.

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