Northfield’s Memorial Pool will open July 1, after the City Council approved the plan Tuesday night.
In opening the pool after a COVID-19 induced delay, Facilities Manager Jayson Dwelle said pool officials plan to limit touch points, sanitize the changing room between two-hour sessions, and remove deck chairs.
Council action came after Gov. Tim Walz’s recent change in guidelines to combat COVID-19 allowing pools to open at 50% capacity.
All sources indicate that a pool with water at proper chlorine level kills COVID-19.
Councilor Brad Ness said he received emails and personal messages from constituents who said they needed the pool to open and got statements of support from at least four swim clubs.
“This is a good option,” he said.
Councilor David DeLong unsuccessfully sought to add a fee for non-Northfield residents who use the pool. His proposal, offered in the form of an amendment, was voted down after concern was expressed regarding the logistics of the proposal.
Dwelle said the pool will do everything it can to maximize revenue, possibly by reaching out to swim clubs in other communities.
Councilor Jessica Peterson White said she was happy the city could open the pool within state guidelines. She noted the city has already faced so many losses due to the pandemic.
“It’s wonderful that we can do this one thing,” she said.
In also supporting the motion, fellow Councilor Clarice Grenier Grabau said the council must balance the social and emotional needs of students with the realities of the pandemic.
“It’s not a no-risk activity, but a low-risk activity,” she said.
In being the lone no vote, Councilor Erica Zweifel said she was uncomfortable with the increasing city subsidies for the pool. She said she would feel more comfortable with opening the pool if more traction was gained in allowing for a safe crossing on Highway 3 and if concerns she has over lifeguards’ safely socially distancing were eased.
Mayor Rhonda Pownell said she is “really proud” that swimmers will be able to exercise as sports start again.
“This is good for the community,” she said.
City staff have determined that, with the current pool capacity at 545, that 95 swimmers could be in the water and still maintain an appropriate social distance.
“The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has seen no evidence of the virus being transmitted via properly treated pool water,” staff wrote in a memo. “Staff should use an (Environmental Protection Agency) registered disinfectant to sanitize the restrooms, high touch areas and limited seating options that would be available.”
Staff recommended an additional $30,000 above the adopted general fund reserve support amount for pool operations.
In a public comment received electronically before the meeting, Northfielder Sara French pleaded for the pool to open.
“Our kids have suffered enough this year,” she said. “They have been robbed of field trips, fundraisers, end-of-the-year parties and goodbyes, seeing friends, birthday parties, activities and basically all summer sports. They really need this. Our community, in particular the youth, need this.”
Solvei Christopherson, who worked last year on the Memorial Pool staff as a seasonal pool attendant, said although she “would love” for the pool to open, she understood the logistical problems posed by COVID-19.
“I also understand that if the pool opened for the season, it would have a lot more regulations and possible jobs employees would have to enforce at the pool,” Christopherson said. “I am more than willing to take on the responsibility, and I feel that my fellow employees would feel the same.”