HOISINGTON — For the first time in two months, the Hoisington City Council met in person on Monday. In order to provide adequate social distancing, the meeting was held in the gymnasium at the Hoisington Municipal Complex, with transparent barriers separating members at each table. No Zoom or Facebook links were provided. Last week, City Manager Jonathan Mitchell and City Attorney John Horner took part in a conference call hosted by the Kansas League of Municipalities. Liability over COVID-19 concerns was discussed. A bill passed by the Kansas legislature did not provide blanket immunity from prosecution for COVID-19 as some had hopped, Mitchell said.
Instead, public organizations were provided some protection, but only if they are acting pursuant to and with substantial compliance with recommendations and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the state health department.
“It’s a challenging situation,” Mitchell said.
Still, the city is moving ahead with plans to reopen public facilities including playgrounds and public restrooms and the Friendship House will offer on-site service again beginning on Monday, June 15.
Mitchell presented an update on the pool opening plan he’s been working on with the pool’s co-managers. The plan takes into consideration state recommendations for mass gatherings, which will limit the number of people that can be admitted during each session. One person per 30 square feet is the spacing the city will allow. Taking into consideration only the perimeter area around the pool, Mitchell estimated that would be about 100 people, but an exact number is yet to be determined.
Opening day will be Wednesday, July 1, and it will be open daily through Aug. 10.
With a full staff of 12 lifeguards hired, a handful are currently going through training to receive their certification by June 12. Each guard will also be assigned his or her own supplies, and there will be no sharing.
The pool will be open from 3-8 p.m. daily, providing two 2-hour swim sessions with one hour for deep cleaning between each session, Mitchell said. Each session will also include hourly breaks, but instead of 10 minutes, they will be 15 minutes long to provide time for spot cleaning.
Seating will be strictly bring-your-own, but concessions will be available. Concession workers will wear gloves and when traveling outside the concession area they will also wear masks. Sneeze guards will be installed at concession stands to protect employees and the public. Only prepared items will be provided, so no Hot Pockets this year.
Meanwhile, maintenance is being completed, and the pool is set to be filled June 22, with chemicals added and ready by June 26. Signage and visual cues will be provided to encourage safe social distancing, and hand sanitizing stations will be fabricated by city workers and made available throughout the pool area, Mitchell said. An isolation room will also be available for those who may experience symptoms at the pool. They will be able to wait there until a ride is arranged for pick up, Mitchell said.
Council members inquired how social distancing will be enforced. Mitchell said staff will encourage and ask the public to follow recommendations, and they can ask those who refuse to leave. Lifeguards, however, are not responsible for enforcement. Family groups will be taken into consideration.
With all the limitations, Mitchell shared an encouraging development. For the first time in several years, enough lifeguards have expressed interest in working weekends through Labor Day to provide a safe environment. The council was eager to approve the request. With a late baseball season anticipated, they felt interest would still be high in coming to the pool at that time, especially with a late opening. Pool parties, swimming and water aerobics classes and adult swims will not be offered this year, however.
“We need to open the pool and make it available to residents, but we need to do it safely,” Mitchell said. Offering only a basic plan made that possible.
The last item of business was the City Manager’s update. Mitchell announced the city’s lagoon project is finally complete and the water softening system is up and running, and adjustments are being dialed in this month to lower hardness readings from the 140-160 ppm range currently to the 90-120 ppm range that has been identified as the sweet spot for the city.
The staff has completed its annual audit, and results are expected back by the end of June. The late audit was a result of COVID-19 safety precautions, so the upcoming budget season will be compressed in order to have a budget hearing and approval in time to send to the state in August.
Also, discussions are being held about what Labor Day weekend will be like in Hoisington this year. Money-generating gatherings like the demolition derby and street dances are being rethought, and there will be more information as it becomes available in the weeks to come. With no requests from the public to deviate from the city’s usual fireworks provision, no adjustment will happen this year. According to city code, fireworks can only be discharged from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on July 4. This year, the date falls on a Saturday.