City pool to open
BY DONALD WATSON REPORTER
The Medford City Council voted 5-3 (Greg Knight, Christine Weix and Tim Hanson voting no) Monday night to open the city pool — with restrictions — on June 27 at 1 p.m.
The restrictions include restricting the number of people using the pool to 150 at any given time; only city residents and residents of municipalities that contribute toward the pool operation will be allowed to use the pool; a pool pass will be required and must be presented prior to entrance into the pool; locker rooms will be closed to the public, but bathrooms will remain open; all deck furniture will be removed; and the head lifeguard has the authority to close the pool if pool users are not following the COVID-19 guidelines.
This is the same motion that was voted down by the council at its June 1 meeting.
Mike Bub said both Weston and Wausau have decided to open their pools and felt Medford should do the same, following the conditions as discussed at June 1 council meeting. “We have had no severe cases of COVID-19 in Taylor County. No one has been hospitalized. There are kids working at Walmart, kids working at County Market. I think if we’re following the procedures, let’s see how it goes in the next couple of weeks and we can always say, ‘We can let more people in.’ I think it’s time to open it.”
Weix said if you talk to the young people working at the pool, a limit of 150 people is not achievable. She said the pool has a capacity of 300 persons and the recommendation is to limit the number to 25 percent of capacity, which would bring the number down to 75 people. “When you talk to the kids, they would rather start small and go up, so they would rather start at 50 people for a week or so and work their way up if they feel that they can keep people at social distancing. We need to listen to what the kids are asking us to do be- cause they’re saying that’s what they’re comfortable with. I know what the community is asking us to do, but we also have to listen to what the kids who work there are asking us to do.”
Knight asked Bub if he knew how many people the pools in Wausau and Weston were allowing in at one time. Bub said their websites said 50 percent. Knight asked Bub what other restrictions did they have. Bub replied the websites didn’t have that information, but he thought the restrictions were probably posted at the pools.
Mayor Mike Wellner said if the council decided to open the pool that evening, the pool staff would have several days to go through the procedures before the pool opened. He said people were “pretty much” aware of health department recommendations and that the hardest part would be when people come out of the pool up onto the deck. “When they’re up on the deck and they’re sitting shoulder to shoulder, we will have to tell them they can’t be sitting on top of each other. That’s going to be the hardest thing for our lifeguards to do because adults don’t following it all the time. When you have kids hopping out of the pool all the time and having a good time, our lifeguards and managers are going to have to tell them they have to sit apart or we’ll have to close the pool. It’s [COVID-19] been going on so long that most people know what the rules are. It’s a matter of how close do we follow the rules.”
Alderman Laura Holmes asked how many people would be working at the pool. Street and Water superintendent Joe Harris said one head lifeguard, five lifeguards and two attendants. Holmes said she thought 75 people at a time would be good since that would be less than 10 people per staff member.
Alderman Dave Roiger said that the problem was not so much social distancing, but enforcing it. He said when you look at the playgrounds, they’re packed with 30 or 40 children and no one is social distancing. “It will be hard to keep social distancing when no one does it.”
Wellner said the city should continue to try to convince people to do so. “We’re not going to go out there with yardsticks to see that they’re two yardsticks apart, but we can say if they hop out of the pool and they’re sitting touching shoulder to shoulder, our lifeguards will have to tell them that they have to move apart.”
Wellner said his other concern with limiting the number of people to 50 is that the weather for the upcoming weekend is going to be hot and humid and that there will be a number of people who will want to go to the pool. He said he thought 50 was too low a number and that somewhere around 100 to 150 was a more reasonable number.
Bub said the average daily attendance at the pool last year was 142. “That’s for the whole day. That’s not 142 that were there at one o’clock and left at eight o’clock. they all don’t come at the same time. Some kids come right away, swim for a couple of hours and go home. Other people come and they go home. Some come in the evening and they go home. Think about it. The average attendance is 142 people. They’re not going to all be there at the exact same time.”
Weix said the guidelines from the health department was to limit gatherings to 50 people or less and if the city wasn’t going to follow those guidelines, then they might as well just open the gates and let everyone in.
Bub replied the Taylor County Health Department was surprised the city didn’t open earlier. He said he talked to both the county nurse and public health director Patty Krug and they thought the city had a very good plan for opening. Bub said they were surprised the city didn’t open the pool because the next day Taylor County opened the beaches at county facilities.
Alderman Clem Johnson said he was concerned about the safety of the general public as a whole. He said if the city is not going to open the pool, people will go swimming at a lake somewhere where there are no guidance or lifeguards, pointing to the recent near drowning at Sackett Lake. “Mothers are not watching or something like that where here we have people who are watching all the kids. To me, it’s a lot safer that way.”
Before the vote, Hansen said he was against the motion as presented. He said he was in favor of a limit of 75 or 100, but thought 150 people were too many. Weix agreed.