By Jordan Gerard
Editor, The Caledonia Argus
The sun is shining, the humidity is up and the Spring Grove Swim Center is looking forward to a “normal” summer, with the slight change in pool hours that has caused a stir.
Originally approved by the council in February, the Swim Center’s hours for June are set for 1-5 p.m., Monday through Sunday, and 6-8 p.m. on Friday nights only, with passes counting toward admission. Previous hours were Monday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. and Friday nights, 7-9 p.m. Swimming lessons are booked into July, manager Mariah Edgington told the council at its regular meeting on May 25.
The hours are a change from 1-6 p.m., in which Edgington said the pool loses $5,622 per season from 5 to 6 p.m., due to the lack of swimmers at that time, based on 2019 data. The pool makes $2,140 in that hour in one season. Allowing the pool to close at 5 p.m. would allow for earlier swimming lessons, she said. She also addressed complaints about lifeguards taking breaks during the day, which are required and allows teachers to eat before lessons start.
On the opposite end of open swim losses, swimming lessons make $9,951 on evening time slots alone. That’s guaranteed income.
“We respect how much the community cares about our amazing Swim Center,” Edgington said. “We’re would never just change our hours out of a lack in work ethic or laziness. We want to focus on activities that make us profit. We haven’t had interest in late afternoon swimming for 5-6 p.m. for a number of years.”
She added they’re open-minded to whichever hours work best, as long as they have the staff available to legally staff open swim.Buses are already set up with Caledonia, Houston and Mabel for kids to swim in Spring Grove, she added.
The pool makes most of its revenue from swimming lessons, Edgington cited, while open swim makes significantly less in an average 70-day season.
However, the city received pushback from parents who would like to see the pool open in the evening hours in order to swim with their kids.
Robin Middendorf expressed disappoint with the hours offered for the swim center and asked why the hours were limited if the pool was supposed to be a community asset.
“Swimming lessons shouldn’t take priority over open swim,” she said.
Parent Jenn Gulbranson agreed, adding, “It’s super unfortunate when the work day is done, the pool day is done ... We’re asking for time to take our kids to the pool.” She said if the pool was just meant for swimming lessons, it would be a waste of space.
It was also suggested that evening swim could happen three nights a week and swimming lessons could happen over a weekend.
Parent Bobbi Holland added her two older children who both work during the day, wouldn’t be able to go to the pool if it wasn’t open in the evenings. She encouraged the council to use Caledonia’s delayed pool opening to the city’s advantage.
The council weighed in and agreed they understood both sides of the discussion.
Council member Karen Folstad pointed out that previously, the pool had more parents saying there were not enough swimming lessons.
In the end, the council agreed to try the 1-5 p.m. hours in June, allow guests to fill out a survey and give an opinion, then re-visit the matter at the June 15 council meeting. A survey will be available for guests to give feedback.
On other pool topics, the council approved the hire of Tessa Pieper as a lifeguard. In summer rec news, they hired Blaine Storlie, Chandler Bergrud, Nathan Solberg, Jaxon Strinmoen, Logan Brumm and Jessica Morken. That was approved with Mayor Scott Solberg abstaining.
Garbage bags vs. totes, round 2
Council member Chad Rohland requested City Administrator Julie Amundson to contract Richard’s Sanitation again about the cost of garbage totes over bags. He cited the December decision was informal, whereas the city took letters and did not conduct a survey.
Rohland also cited that he heard more people wanted the totes, but Folstad said she heard opposite.
Greg Skauge said the price of new totes has increased,but for residents, the increase will only be 14 cents extra per month. The cost is $3.85 for the 96 gallon recycling tote and $11.15 for the 65 gallon garbage tote. The bag system costs $3.46 per month plus the cost of garbage bags, which is $2 per bag. That price is good for 30 days and its likely it will increase again, he said.
There were a few concerns that elderly people would not be able to pull the large totes to the end of the driveway in the winter. Skauge said they extend a courtesy out to customers to wheel the totes for them, as long as the totes are outside, in front of the garage.
Rohland made the motion to send out a survey mailer. That was approved, with the council expected to re-visit the topic in June. If new totes are chosen, it will take about two months to receive them, Skauge said.
EDA co-director Rebecca Charles said the housing subcommittee completed a feasibility study that identified four potential areas where new housing could be built.
The first and most economical location was the city-owned Quonset hut property near Roverud Park. This location already has utilities and it’s city-owned, meaning it would give the city more leverage to encourage development without injecting capital, the document cited. About eight units could be built there.
The feasibility study said the property could provide approximately $2,118 per unit at an established value of $175,000 per unit, resulting in $16,900 in potential new annual tax revenue for the city if developed.
It would also be the first step in beautification of the area. If the city moves forward with this location, they’ll have to find a new storage location.
Other areas identified were Bender 4th addition and Dave Morken development north of Goodview Dr.
The council approved a motion to allow the housing subcommitte to move forward in collecting requests for proposals (RFP)on the quonset development location. The proposals are not a commitment to develop nor binding in anyway.
The council received a clean audit on its 2020 financials, with the recommendation that they lessen the number of transfers between accounts on a month-to-month basis. Instead of transferring, the Abdo Eick and Meyers advised the city to budget for those items, thus improving the city’s processes.
Compared to other cities of similar size, Spring Grove’s tax rate was trending downward because the city is offsetting that with sufficient growth.
The council approved employee Jon Sylling as the new utility director to replace Paul Morken. His start date is June 1. The city will hire a wastewater operator for Jon’s old position.
The council approved $1,700 to the Syttende Mai committee in order to pay Kid Again Inflatables, which previously provided bounce houses during Syttende Mai. However, the company went bankrupt and the committee was not able to recuperate any losses.
The Syttende Mai committee also reported the royalty float had been damaged while getting it out or putting it away for the parade.
The next meeting of the Spring Grove City Council will be June 15, at 6 p.m. at 168 W. Main St.