WABASHA — The Wabasha City Council wants to give itself a little more time before making a decision on whether to open the city swimming pool this summer.
During Tuesday night's council meeting, council members tabled any decisions on the pool until after May 18, the end of the current stay-at-home order from Gov. Walz.
Council member Craig Falkum said that if there is even a remote chance the pool can be opened for the summer, the city should wait to see if that is a possibility. Falkum said parents will be looking for a place to let their children blow off steam this summer, and if the council decides prematurely to close the swimming pool, the city could be the lone town without an open pool.
Public Works director Tony Johnson said there were solid reasons to close the pool.
First, by closing the pool, the city would save between $30,000 and $35,000, which is the cost of operating the pool compared to the revenue generated by the pool. Second, while it's possible there could be an easing of social distancing rules after May 18, it would be nearly impossible to enforce those rules in the pool or at the playground that adjoins the pool. Finally, Johnson said, once the decision is made it will take about a month to get the pool ready, meaning the pool season would be short and still cost about the same.
Johnson said he's been in touch with other cities – Rochester, Plainview and Winona – about their decisions concerning their pools, but none of those cities has made a decision.
Pine Island City Administrator Elizabeth Howard said the item is on the agenda for the May 19 city council meeting, but as of yet, no decision has been made. Her town is not alone. Byron and Stewartville will also address their pools at upcoming city council meetings.
Stewartville City Administrator Bill Schimmel said the city is going ahead with prep and cleaning work for a possible opening. The city is also awaiting further directives from either the office of the governor or the Minnesota Department of Health, which oversees safety rules and protocols for public pools.
In Zumbrota, the decision was made to cancel swimming lessons at the pool this summer, said Mike Olson of the city's parks department. However, a decision on if or when to open the pool is still on hold.
Wabasha Mayor Emily Durand said that as a mother of young children, it would be hard for her to envision a scenario where she'd feel comfortable taking her kids to the pool this summer. But, for the sake of people who might want to swim this summer, she was willing to wait until after May 18 to make a decision.
While Johnson agreed there was no reason to make the decision in a hurry, he felt the best decision would be to close the pool for 2020. The main COVID-19 health concerns, he added, have nothing to do with the virus in the water but how it can be transmitted in bathrooms and locker rooms or at the playground.
"If we open at all, we feel like there’s going to be a declined enrollment because parents won’t want their kids to catch something that may be floating around out there," Johnson said.