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City closes pool for summer, citing COVID-19 guidelines

No one will be making splashes at the Greenbush Pool and it will remain empty after the Greenbush City Council made an official motion to close it for the summer, citing the difficulty in abiding by the state’s COVID-19 guidelines as a major reason. It also mentioned financial factors, the unknowns surrounding the opening timeline, and upcoming pool renovation work as other reasons during its May 28 special meeting via Zoom.

City attorney Michelle Moren recommended that if the city did open the pool that it would have to hire an adult to enforce COVID-19 guidelines.

“Four (pool) applicants that we have are between the ages of 16 and 19,” City Clerk Anita Locken said. “It might be hard for them to enforce this with some adults.”

Council member Christine Foss voiced her thoughts on the issue.

“I just don’t think it’s possible (to open) with these ridiculous guidelines… As much as I want to have the pool open, because my kid loves to go there, it’s just you can’t follow these silly guidelines,” Foss said. “It’s not possible. You’re not going to find anybody that’s going to go there and tell people you have to wear a mask and stay six feet apart in a swimming pool.”

The city’s eventual decision followed Mayor Brenda Sather’s and city staff’s recommendation to not open the pool and instead focus on pool house renovations, following the lead, Sather said, of many other cities.

“I really feel it’s going to be difficult,” Sather said about the guidelines. “… Are we are we really going to be able to have somebody walking around, asking people to put their masks on. They (guidelines) say, ‘Yep, they don’t have to have it (a mask on) in the pool. But is that realistic? I don’t know.”

According to Red Cross guidance, employees and patrons would have had to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to entering the pool facility. Lifeguards would be there to just monitor the swimmers, not to enforce COVID-19 guidelines. Also, lifeguards and patrons would have had to wear masks, swimmers to stay six feet apart, and patrons to follow social distancing guidelines. As for capacity, the pool would have had to have cut its capacity by half, a number equaling 50 patrons.

The pool would also have had to have something up stating that it didn’t sanitize the diving board and the slide during the day. Locken added how the League of Minnesota Cities recommended that diving boards and slides not even be used.

Also, pool staff would have had to clean the handrails daily and bathrooms more than once a day. The city received a recommendation to not put out chairs, unless they could be sanitized between users. Shared toys and life jackets were also not permitted unless they could be sanitized between every user.

Under the guidelines, the pool also couldn’t have held swimming lessons, besides private lessons. Locken reported that the pool didn’t have the guards to do private lessons. Also of note, lessons are the largest source of revenue for the pool.

Under Phase III of the state’s Stay Safe MN plan, pools have the potential for a phased opening with capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements. Phase II of this plan began on June 1 and, in this phase, pools were to remain closed.

Phase III had not been designated by a date, putting the city had a disadvantage in terms of not knowing a time frame for opening. Before council’s decision, City Public Works Technician Shaun Jevne had reported that the earliest the pool could have been opened would have been on July 1.

To see the complete story, read the June 3 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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