After months of uncertainty over whether or not public pools would be able to open this season, pool managers and city officials finally received the news they’ve been anticipating.
Beginning June 10, many establishments that have been closed over the last three months, including public pools, were allowed to open at 50% capacity. IN the days prior to opening, both city workers and pool managers have been hard at work over creating a plan to keep both pool staff and patrons safe. Wanamingo’s pool opened Thursday, June 11, while Kenyon’s pool set its opening date for Friday, June 12.
With the news of Faribault choosing to keep its Family Aquatic Center closed for the summer, and surrounding areas like Zumbrota and Cannon Falls opting to keep pools closed, concerns were raised over receiving an abundance of patrons from out of town, especially considering the 50% capacity restriction.
Resident Katrina Todd expressed her worry over Faribault’s pool closure creating an “overload” of patrons in Kenyon’s pool in a post on The Kenyon Leader Facebook page.
While city officials and pool staff are aware of the concerns, it’s impossible to predict what will happen in the coming weeks.
At Kenyon City Council’s June 9 meeting, City Administrator Mark Vahlsing said while Pool Manager Cheryl Dahl says she can only remember there being 100 people in the pool only once or twice, they are trying to anticipate interest in the pools from other areas. Season passes are only available to those living in the Kenyon-Wanamingo school district or to previous season holders said Vahlsing, so people in the area have first priority.
“We want our residents and area residents to have priority,” said Vahlsing at the meeting. “…right now we’re not sure how many outside people we’ll have, so we’re not sure how it’ll play out.”
Council Member Dan Rechtzigel said people coming from other places would be a good thing for the city, as they may also stop by some of the local shops while they are in the area. He also commended those involved in creating the plan.
“My hat goes out to all of you,” said Rechtzigel. “[The plan] looks very well organized.”
Pool Manager Cheryl Dahl and Assistant Manager Siri Quam worked with Vahlsing and Public Works Director Wayne Ehrich to come up with a plan for reopening.
“This is a work in progress kind of deal,” said Vahlsing during the pool introduction. “We have to see how the demand is, but we have a good start … I’m happy with the job [Dahl and Quam] did putting this together.”
During Wanamingo’s June 8 City Council meeting, Assistant Pool Manager Julie Steberg presented the plan she and Pool Manager Dylan Steberg came up with, along with City Administrator Michael Boulton. After making the announcement on the pool’s Facebook page of its expected opening, Steberg said people were overjoyed to hear the good news.
In a response to a post on Leader’s Facebook page asking for comments on the pool’s opening announcement, Annemarie Laue confirmed the excitement chattering around the communities.
“I am thrilled to have it open for my grandchildren,” wrote Laue in her response. “[It’s] nice to have some normalcy.”
Residents of Wanamingo, too, are the only ones allowed to purchase a season pass. Boulton said concerns with an overabundance of patrons from other areas will be addressed if the time comes.
In accordance with the Minnesota Department of Health’s guidance in reopening public swimming pools and aquatic facilities, pool operators are instructed to plan for reduced capacity, consider the staggering of entry in lobby and locker rooms, enforce proper distancing on the pool deck and bodies of water, ensure adequate staffing, post proper signage, clean and disinfect the facility in addition to regular maintenance and evaluate COVID-19 impact on rescue protocol.
More specifically, Kenyon and Wanamingo’s pool managers/city officials have created specific guidelines in their reopening plans. While some procedures are similar, each area differs in one way or another to fit the needs of their facilities.
2020 pool procedures in Kenyon and Wanamingo
Swimming pool capacity:
• Kenyon — if the limit of 80 people is reached, more people won’t be allowed in until someone leaves.
• Wanamingo — staff recommends the main pool go from 128 to 60, while chopping the smaller pool from 16 to 8 occupancy, until restrictions are lifted. No one over six years old is allowed in the kiddie pool, including siblings. Signs for capacity will be posted at the front door and staff will conduct regular counts to ensure capacity in both pools are not exceeded. The outside gate to the kiddie pool will be locked and all patrons will need to enter and exit through the main doors.
• Kenyon — staff will limit and monitor the number of people in the locker rooms and urge pool goers to plan to bring their personal belongings with them to the pool deck. Showers upon entry are also required, and pool goers are reminded to wash hands and practice good personal hygiene.
• Wanamingo — only two patrons will be allowed in the locker rooms at a given time. Staff will monitor to ensure patrons are not loitering. Patrons will be given tubs to store their possessions in rather than utilizing lockers. The tubs will be lined up along the fence on the west side.
Social distancing requirements/cleaning procedures:
• Kenyon — watch for floor markings indicating places to wait in line upon entry to the pool and for use of the slides. The chairs have been placed according to required social distancing requirements. Staff urge patrons to refrain from moving chairs without permission. Tables are limited to members of the same household.
• Wanamingo — lifeguard staff will be cleaning the bathhouse and various pool surfaces every hour and half (during mandatory breaks). Guards will use an all-purpose disinfectant spray, disinfectant wipes or soap/water for cleaning. City staff have three jugs of hepacide on hand, and have additional jugs on order. A sanitizing station will be available at the entrance to the pool. Lifeguards will not be wearing masks due to the whistles and patrons needing to be able to clearly hear instructions. Tape will be placed around lifeguards’ chairs to ensure social distancing is taking place.
Pricing and swimming lesson offerings
• Kenyon — priority for group lessons will go to those within the K-W school district and students who have previously participated in Kenyon’s lesson program. Those outside the district or new students will be placed on a waiting list to be notified if room is available. A parent or guardian is required to be in the water with the student for preschool lessons and levels one, two and three. Levels four through six do not require assistance, but are expected to be able to swim across the pool independently. Only children participating in lessons and one adult per child will be allowed in the pool area. There will be four sessions of lessons available.
• Wanamingo — regular lessons will not be offered, however private lessons may be available as an alternative.
• Kenyon — afternoon passes are $3.50 and evening passes are $2.50. Swimming lessons with a pass are $28 and $43 without a pass. Private lessons, held for four and one half hours, are $65. Pool parties are $55 per hour. Family/day care swim in the little pools is $1.
• Wanamingo — private pool parties are $60 per hour, private swim lessons are $20 per half hour, the lap swim pass for adults, from 7 to 8 p.m. (only) is $25. Daily admission for the main pool is $3.50 and free for the kiddie pool. The swimming aerobics season pass is $85 and drop in aerobics is $4 per time.
• Kenyon — only available to those in the K-W School District or to previous season pass holders. Prices have changed due to the late opening: for those living within the city of Kenyon family passes are $80, and individual passes are $35. For those living outside the city of Kenyon but within the K-W School District or withheld a season pass in previous years, family passes are $100 and individual passes are $45.
• Wanamingo — for residents a family pass is $110 and a single pass is $55. All payments for passes must be made at the pool.
• Kenyon — available for $20 to anyone and holders are eligible for discounted entry (50 cents) to afternoon and evening open swim sessions. Punch cards may also be used for water aerobics, lap swim and family/daycare swim, however there is no discount available for those sessions. Cards will be kept on file at the pool and may be shared by family members.
• Wanamingo — an aerobics punch card with six total punches is available for $20.
As Wencl Construction continues to make steady progress on phase 1 of Red Wing Avenue street and utility improvements — the stretch from Red Wing Avenue (Highway 60 to Fifth Street), the alley and Fourth Street — plans are also well underway for the Kenyon Business Park, as a bid has been awarded.
Red Wing: Moving into phase 2 in July
During the June 9 Kenyon City Council meeting, Project Manager Derek Olinger said Wencl is running ahead of schedule. Sanitary and water services were completed the first week in June. Street construction began late last week and is anticipated to be complete in the third week of July. By that time in July, Olinger says the contractor will likely be ready to begin work on phase 2 — the area south of Fifth Street.
The council approved the contractor’s first pay request of $393,600 at the June meeting. This estimate includes the removal of pavement and trees, excavation of partial sections of the street and most of the water main and sanitary sewer mains within the area north of Fifth Street.
At the Feb. 11 City Council meeting, the council opted to include an early completion incentive bonus in the bids sent out to contractors, since Red Wing Avenue is a high-traffic area in Kenyon. The council also thought it would be ideal to ensure construction of the major areas are complete before Rosefest. Substantial completion is anticipated for Oct. 31, with final completion by June 26, 2021.
The project is divided in three construction phases. Phase 1A includes the downtown area, where the highest demand will be. For this stretch of the street, the contractor will be required to limit the time they work in that area and make sure the roads remain passable when they aren’t actively being worked on. 1A has a milestone completion date of July 31, which includes the full construction of utilities, installation of curbs, gutters and sidewalks, as well as bituminous pavement.
Phase 1B has the same requirements as 1A, except for the installation of the hard surfaces, in hopes to get back to the base so the area is passable for local traffic in the area.
The next phase, phase 2, gives the contractor’s underground team an additional block of area to work on while phase 1A and 1B are being completed.
Crews will be able to work on phase 3 throughout the remainder of the Red Wing Avenue project.
Business Park: Awarding bids, starting construction this summer
During the council’s special meeting May 5, the improvement hearing date was set for June 9. The project financing plan includes a portion of the project costs to be assessed back to the four newly platted lots within the business park. A public hearing on the improvement, required as part of the process, was held during the June 9 meeting.
Following the improvement hearing, the council ordered improvements and awarded the bid to A-1 Excavating, Inc. of Bloomer, Wisconsin, the lowest bidder at nearly $1.37 million. Out of the 23 contractors who received the bid packet, 10 bids were submitted for the project on May 27. The lowest bid was 21% below the engineers estimate. Olinger said the amount of interest in this project was “pretty” incredible.
“We received a record number of interested contractors on this project which ultimately resulted in a bidding environment that was very favorable for the city,” wrote Olinger in a memo to the city.
At this time, the construction start date is unknown, but it is expected to begin mid-summer of this year. Utility installation and most site grading will be completed by the end of November if the contractor is completing the work in accordance with the project schedule requirements.
About five months is needed for a full-time inspection, and the final completion and project closeout is estimated to take about one to two months of part-time services.
Spraying Depot Park for weeds
Also during the June 9 meeting, resident Brianna Jensen voiced her concerns, along with 52 other members of the community who signed signatures in agreement, over spraying the entire lawn of Depot Park with chemicals. She said she doesn’t mind the spot spraying, but she would prefer the whole park to never be sprayed again at once, especially since it’s not good for small children or pets to be around it.
City Administrator Mark Vahlsing said the reason the park is sprayed is due to complaints of dandelions and other weeds. The area in the median of Gunderson Boulevard where the roses are is also sprayed with the same chemical.
Public Works Director Wayne Ehrich said this was the first year they had the whole lawn sprayed. Typically they just spot spray certain areas.
As a compromise, Vahlsing said he would look at the chemicals the contractor uses to see if there’s some that have less of a residual effect as a way to mitigate the strong smell. He also said the city doesn’t plan to spray the whole park every year. Mayor Doug Henke was hesitant in saying that the whole park will never be sprayed again, especially since he said the city strives to preserve the park for other citizens of Kenyon to enjoy.
In frustration, Jensen said dandelions and clover aren’t the threat in this situation.
“The threat is the chemicals spraying in the park. It shouldn’t be how it looks vs. our children,” said Jensen. “It should be their right to be safe there.”
Council Member Dan Rechtzigel recommended looking into what other areas are doing and to get more guidance from other cities, because it’s likely this is an issue nationwide. In agreement, Vahlsing said he would see if there’s a standard of what else can be used as an alternative.
Although restrictions are beginning to loosen in Minnesota, uncertainty still remains of what the next few months will bring, forcing officials across the state — fair board directors included — to make some tough decisions.
At the Goodhue County Fair Board’s June 3 meeting, the board voted to decide whether or not the fair — scheduled for Aug. 11-15 — will go on as planned by July 1.
Following the board’s June 10 meeting, Goodhue County Fair Board Vice President Carol Shumann said the board will continue to monitor the situation in the weeks to come, and hold discussions based on any new information provided. Since there are a lot of important details associated with organizing a fair, there is even more items to discuss and figure out, as different guidelines would need to be figured out for each aspect of the fair — food, entertainment and exhibits. Some alternatives involve virtual contests, trivia or possibly hosting weekend with food trucks, live music and/or a demolition derby later in the year during September or October.
Shumann said there are definitely two sides to the discussion, with some members wanting to “pull the plug” now and others who want to wait a little longer.
“We still have some time, so we weren’t ready to make a final decision yet,” she said of the board’s frequent discussions. “We are waiting to see how much of a fair we will have. We realize it won’t be the full fair if we do proceed. There’s lots of details to discuss if it would be feasible or not.”
Shumann said only 13 of the 94 total fairs in the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs are either planning on having the county fairs or waiting a little longer to make a final decision. The counties surrounding Goodhue — Wabasha, Olmsted, Dodge, Steele, Rice and Dakota — have already cancelled their county fairs. However, Dakota County is the only fair in the area held during the same week as Goodhue’s. Several weeks ago the Cannon Valley Fair in Cannon Falls announced it was cancelling its community fair.
If the Goodhue County Fair proceeds as planned, Shumann says it will look a little different as some of the vendors have already said they wouldn’t be able to attend. The fan-favorite carnival, based out of Louisiana, isn’t coming to Minnesota due to financial reasons. Many of their fairs in the state have been canceled. Grandstand entertainment, like the lawn mower derby, demolition derby, tractor and truck pull and autocross racing draw up additional concerns with social distancing and how it could be controlled. Depending on what the guidelines are at the time, Shumann says those events may not be feasible to have that many people shoulder-to-shoulder.
The 4-H exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, would present a new challenge as the University of Minnesota Extension Service has put a halt to in-person activities through June. Through serving on the State Federation Board, Shumann said they have been talking with the state 4-H leaders for any “inklings,” of whether the in-person activity cancellations will be extended through August.
For the Goodhue County Fair, Shumann says 4-H is one of its top priorities.
“We want to have something for those youth, at the very least have them show at the fair [in some way,]” said Shumann. “It’s a good experience for them to bring in their animals and have the judging if they are able.”
Shumann says the board has discussed alternatives for 4-H members to still be able to exhibit/get their projects judged in one shape or form. Some options are having one species of each animal brought in for one day, instead of the whole week, and have 4-H’ers show their animal in the ring with a smaller class size.
There may need to be different guidelines with each species since some animals, like pigs, don’t have a halter while showing, which would make it difficult to social distance. Instead of the judges entering the show arena to judge the animals, they may walk past the pens of animals. If this were the case, Shumann says it probably wouldn’t be open to the public, just for immediate family members. On a state level, a similar format could be followed to give 4-H’ers the opportunity to experience showing at a higher level. Virtual options for judging exhibits are also being considered.
“It’s kind of a wait and see pattern, once we know what will be allowed,” said Shumann. “If the Extension doesn’t open up, some organizations are organizing junior shows, so kids would still be able to show at sometime later in the summer, possibly even in fall.”
In talking with other fair directors in the surrounding areas who have already had to make that “tough” decision, Shumann said they indicate that decision has been one of the hardest things they’ve had to make.
“It’s tough on everybody,” added Shumann.
Shumann says a final decision would be made by July 1. The board will continue to meet each Wednesday, as they normally do each summer to prepare/maintain the grounds, along with the help of the Junior Fair Board (made of 10-15 teenage 4-H’ers who get a taste of what it’s like to be on the board, as well as volunteer to help maintain the grounds).
“It’s a tough decision, but we’re going to do the best we can do,” said Shumann.