Apple Valley Aquatic Center lifeguard

A lifeguard watches over the aquatic center in Apple Valley. The City Council voted May 14 to close the Aquatic Center and Redwood Community Pool for the 2020 season due to uncertainties with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

City staff cite uncertainties with COVID-19 pandemic

Apple Valley’s public city pools will be closed for the 2020 season.

The Apple Valley City Council voted May 14 to agree with a staff recommendation to close the Apple Valley Aquatic Center and the Redwood Community Pool for this year’s season. Finance Director Ron Hedberg said the staff was recommending this option “due to the health and safety challenges as well as the uncertainties presented by the COVID-19.”

At the last City Council meeting in April, council members asked for budget information related to possibly closing the pools. City officials were asking the council to make their decision during the May 14 meeting.

“The decision is needed this evening because of the delay in the timeline it takes to get the pool up and going for the coming season,” Hedberg said. “Concerns exist on the public health for patrons and staff.”

The city staff also had uncertainties for opening dates, the availability of protective equipment, hiring and training of staff, the need for ongoing sanitation and disinfection and meeting all of the social distance guidelines, according to Hedberg.

Hedberg said they were asked to look at different scenarios.

The staff explored five options:

• Operating the Aquatic Center and Redwood Pool as budgeted for the full year with no social distancing;

• Reduced bather load with expected guidance of operating at 25 percent of capacity with the same number of lifeguards as full capacity for enforcing social distancing, operating the pools and cleaning;

• Starting the season late on July 1;

• Reduced hours of operation at the Aquatic Center and closing at 5 p.m. for cleaning and no swim lessons at Redwood;

• Closing the Aquatic Center and Redwood for the season.

Hedberg outlined the budgetary impacts and net income or net loss of each scenario for both locations.

At the Aquatic Center a full year of operation would result in a net income $54,000. The net losses for the other four scenarios were: 25 percent capacity: $126,000; starting late on July 1: $147,000; limited hours: $150,000 and closing for the season: $96,000.

“A lot of our costs go on whether attendees are there or not; the building costs and maintenance costs. We have the chemicals to treat the water,” Hedberg said.

Hedberg said the Redwood Pool attendance is typically under the 25 percent capacity. While Redwood is smaller, easier to sanitize and staff are more readily available, “significant” adaptations would be required for swimming lessons under the current guidance. The pool would be offered for small group rentals. All of the scenarios would result in a financial loss as follows:

• Full year operation: $66,000;

• 25 percent of capacity: $66,000;

• Late state on July 1: $54,000;

• No swim times- increased rental times: $62,000;

• Closed for the season: $28,000.

Hedberg also noted that pools, aquatic centers and beaches in Dakota, Anoka, Washington and Ramsey counties and the cities of Eagan, Minneapolis, Edina, Richfield, South St. Paul and Rochester will be closed for the 2020 season.

Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland said the vote was not something the council could have ever imagined a year ago or even at its goal-setting session earlier this year.

“It’s a sad one that we make tonight, very sad but it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

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

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