Phase 2 began June 5, which gave an opportunity for pools in the approved counties to reopen for the 2020 summer season, but restrictions, costs and staff are some of the reasons why Gleason Pool will remain closed this year.
During the John Day City Council meeting June 9, representatives from the city and the John Day-Canyon City Parks and Recreation district answered questions and discussed why the pool would remain closed.
When it comes to the cost of reopening, John Day City Manager Nick Green said the team would have to do things that would severely limit the amount of revenue the pool could bring in while significantly increasing the operating costs.
Andy Day of John Day asked what were the restrictions inhibiting the pool from opening and the cost effectiveness of the extra cost for opening the pool.
Parks and Rec board member Lisa Weigum said they are a month behind in planning since the information they had indicated pools wouldn’t reopen until Phase 3 around late August or early September.
“We’re already a month behind in terms of maintenance of the pool, so if everything else went as planned, that would still put us into July,” she said. “Additionally we don’t have the staff to man the pool.”
Parks and Rec told the staff who usually run the pool that if other job opportunities came about to seek them because Parks and Rec can’t guarantee their job.
This included the certified pool manager, which requires a three-day, in-person course that could potentially be provided online in mid-June. Training for lifeguard certification is a three-day, in-person course not being offered currently.
“The social distancing required for people in the pool is 30 square feet around each person, and we’re liable to make sure that’s enforced, and we don’t really know how we would do that,” Weigum said.
Some of the other rules that would need to be enforced would be to require staff, including lifeguards, to wear a mask, face covering or face shield when not in the water; maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet between people; frequently clean and disinfect work areas, high-traffic areas, regularly clean restrooms and ensure they are supplied with soap, paper towels and hand sanitizer for planned use; and assign a physical distancing monitor in the locker room to ensure visitors follow all physical distancing requirements, including at entrances, exits, restrooms and any other area where people may gather.
Weigum talked to their insurance provider prior to the meeting and learned that Parks and Rec would have to be in complete compliance at all times, and if their provider heard that they were not, Parks and Rec would not have liability coverage.
“It’s kind of complex,” Weigum said. “I’ve heard people in the community be like, ‘Hey, Boise is doing it. Why can’t we?’ Well we’re Oregon, they’re Idaho, so that’s the first difference. The second difference is that what they can offer and what we can offer in terms of square footage looks a lot different.”
Weigum has talked to other pool operators in Pendleton, Burns and Lakeview who also made the decision to remain closed. When talking with Pendleton, they did a cost-benefit analysis to see if the finances would pay off but Weigum said it didn’t for them.
She also talked with operators in La Grande who are only offering lap swim for a limited period with one person per lane, which is only open to the hospital for therapy and senior citizens.
“We’re trying, but it’s not looking great for us,” Weigum said.
Weigum added that the decision was not taken lightly, and a lot of consideration was put into it with input from the board meetings and community.
With the pool remaining closed for the 2020 swim season, Dusty Williams of John Day asked if money would be refunded to the taxpayers.
Weigum told the Eagle that the funds would be used to help fund other programs the John Day-Canyon City Parks and Recreation District provides in the community such as youth activities and sports like basketball, football, volleyball, soccer and T-ball.
“We maintain the city park and the Seventh Street Complex, which is nearly 23 acres that includes two baseball fields, two softball fields, two little league fields, open green space, two playgrounds, two picnic shelters, basketball, tennis and pickleball courts, a skate park, over a mile-long walking path and restroom facilities,” Weigum said. “The role of Parks and Recreation in this community is broader than maintaining and operating the pool.”