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Pool possible, beaches open

With new guidance from the governor allowing pools to open at 50 percent capacity, one Lake City City Council member wanted to know Monday what it would take to get the city’s pool up and running.

“I tell you in my six years on the council I’ve never heard more comments from Saturday to today,” Council Member Russell Boe said. “I think parents with little kids and 90 degree days are dreaming about a pool.”

He said it might not be the full season, it might not be seven days a week, “but anything we can do to get that pool open safely would be appreciated.”

City Administrator Rob Keehn described the last few days as “whiplash” with all the recent changes coming from the government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said it would take some work both from the city in terms of physically getting the pool ready and from the Red Wing YMCA, which manages the pool under a contract with the city.

Keehn estimated a three-to-four-week period to get ready, depending on whether they were able to find lifeguards to staff the pool.

Council Member Amy Alkire said she too was interested in swimming amenities but wanted to look more broadly and see what could be done at Lake City’s beaches.

“Last week I was at the beach three times with my kids,” she said, and on a Tuesday afternoon at Hok-Si-La she estimated about 150 people swimming at the beach.

“I think that is going to be the name of the game this summer whether we open our pool or not,” she said.

She asked about lifeguards, larger buoys to mark the swimming area, and a possible temporary boardwalk at Hok-Si-La to help people navigate the beach when the sand is very hot.

Later Mayor Mark Nichols suggested a public workday to assemble a boardwalk along the Hok-Si-La beach.

Alkire said she was not opposed to looking at the pool, but she wanted the council to consider that the beaches were likely to be used more this summer regardless of whether the pool was open.

Council Member Faye Brown said she was not in favor of opening the pool.

“It just seems like a lot of work for two months,” she said. “And there’s going to be some pretty strict guidelines. How do you tell little kids to social distance?”

Also, she said, there could be a spike in infections that causes the government to restrict pool usage once again.

Council Member Phil Gartner said what he liked about the beach vs. the pool is the ability to spread out.

Several council members shared concerns that with one of the few open pools in the area, demand from out-of-town users could exclude local pool users.

No formal action was taken. Nichols said that a special meeting could be held if necessary.

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