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Apple Valley City Council members discuss whether the city’s pools should be closed for the summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic during the April 23 meeting.

City Council expected to make decision May 14

The Apple Valley City Council is trying to decide whether the city’s pools should be closed for the summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council voted April 23 to make a decision about the Redwood Community Pool and the Apple Valley Aquatic Center no later than its May 14 meeting.

“It’s a tough situation. We all want our kids to be able to have an enjoyable summer and it’s going to be a uniquely different summer for them. So how do we adapt and help them to be able to get through the summer will be really important,” said Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland.

City Administrator Tom Lawell said the city staff were seeking the council’s direction about the upcoming pool season.

He said for the council and community’s information, some work will happen at the pool regardless of whether it opens for the summer or not. Last year, the council approved “sprayground equipment” that will be added to the northwest part of the Aquatic Center to replace the original sand play equipment. The contract has been let for this project and the work is taking place this spring in preparation for the season.

Shell repair on the pool will also take place and the pool will be filled in order for the surface to cure, Lawell said.

Normally by now, the city would be getting its lifeguards on board and training would be conducted. However, the city is unsure how such hands-on training would occur safely during social distancing requirements from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The city has gone through a hiring process, has identified employees and put them on a roster but they’re not working any hours. They’re in a holding pattern about whether they will have employment this summer.

“I would think that we would not want to start to engage them with the training until the council has made the decision,” Lawell said.

Lawell said another challenge is the number of people who could safely be at a pool or the aquatic center at once and maintaining proper distance.

“For adults you could have more compliance. If you have more kids at the pool, it’s going to be difficult to maintain that six-foot separation,” he said.

Hamann-Roland said she would have no issue with pushing back the decision until the next meeting so long as no training would occur during the weeks between the meetings.

“I was a lifeguard and I don’t know how you would save a person without touching them and wearing a mask. I don’t know how you wear a mask in the water to protect yourself. That would be difficult,” she said.

Acting Parks and Recreation Director Mike Endres said training is a big factor to consider because he wants to ensure if the pools will be open, that the employees working there are properly trained to make them safe for visitors.

“You can’t just open a pool and expect it to run without the staff to oversee it,” he said.

During his presentation, Lawell provided a list of area pools that have already been closed or were in the process of making a decision about their season.

The Bloomington Family Aquatic Center, Shakopee Sand Venture Aquatic Park and Minneapolis pools and beaches are closed. The Eagan City Council voted May 5 to close Cascade Bay for the 2020 season.

Council Member Clint Hooppaw said he would be OK with waiting a few weeks to make a decision.

“My gut tells me we’re going to make a decision to close for the whole summer, especially if we can only open to 25 percent capacity,” he said.

Council Member John Bergman said he was also fine with waiting to make a decision.

Council Member Ruth Grendahl said she wanted more data to make an informed decision. She asked for the number of park and recreation employees who are being furloughed along with budget revenues and expenses.

Council Member Tom Goodwin initially made a motion to close the pools for the 2020 season, when it didn’t get a second by another council member, he dropped it.

The council members then voted 4-1 to make a decision no later than May 14. Bergman, Grendahl, Hamann-Roland and Hooppaw voted in favor of the motion. Goodwin was the dissenting vote.

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@apgecm.com.

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