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Charles City Park & Rec Board recommends not opening pool this summer

Charles City Park & Rec Board recommends not opening pool this summer
Swimmers get ready to dive into the pool at Lions Field in Charles City in this file photo from 2018. Press photo
By Bob Steenson, bsteenson@charlescitypress.com

The members of the Charles City Park & Recreation Board voted unanimously Thursday evening to recommend the city swimming pool not open this year.

The final decision will be up to the City Council, which could make a decision Monday.

Tyler Mitchell, city park and rec director, gave board members a list of things the pool might need to comply with if it would open.

They include requiring face masks, maintaining 6-foot social distancing in the pool and surrounding areas, hiring extra people to enforce the rules, hourly cleaning and disinfecting with products appropriate for use around pools, regulating the number of people allowed in the pool at any time, having enough staff to cover if other staff members are absent due to sickness, extra training on how to handle all the new rules, etc.

Mitchell said the list included guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Iowa Park and Recreation Association, Iowa Department of Public Health and from extensive talks he’s had with park and rec directors in other communities.

A number of area cities have already announced their pools will not open this summer, including Mason City, which could increase the number of people who want to use the Charles City pool at Lions Field if it does open, Mitchell said.

Board members discussed the question for a good while, but it was clear right away that they were leaning toward not opening.

When he was asked if he could even find enough staff to open, including lifeguards, Mitchell said fewer people had applied than usual, in a year when more people than usual would be needed to meet all the requirements.

Phoebe Pittman, a City Council member attending the video conference meeting, said, “If it sounds like more and more neighboring towns are not going to be open, we don’t want to be the pool that’s open.”

Pittman said she would be sad to see the pool not open, and knows her own kids would be disappointed, but “I think it’s the right decision to not open it. Financially, it doesn’t seem to make any sense with the added overhead that we would have.”
Park & Rec board member Dennis Peterson noted that the pool is a public service that loses money even in a good year, and with all the extra expenses and potentially reduced revenue, it probably doesn’t make sense to open it.

Board Chairman Jeff Otto agreed.

“As much as I’d like to see it open, I’m just not sure we can do it,” he said.

Board member Diane Meyer suggested that if the pool is closed, the city could use the opportunity to make needed repairs.
Mitchell said there is a lot that needs to be done, but the question is money. Part of the department’s funding comes from the city hotel and motel tax, which could be down tens of thousands of dollars because of the coronavirus.

“We’ll do as much work as we can with the budget we have,” he said.

Otto said the board should make use of the time to develop a plan of action for the pool, rather than continuing to “Band-aid it.”

“Maybe this is the summer since it’s closed we come up with a master plan and throw it out there and see what happens,” Otto said. “We’ve got to get a plan put together on that pool.”

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