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Wells reverses course; will now open pool

By Staff | Jun 14, 2020

“Last Friday, Governor Tim Walz’ announcement came as a big surprise,” said Wells City Administrator CJ Holl during last week’s regular Wells City Council meeting as the council considered opening the Wells Swimming Pool.

Before the council decided to talk on the scheduled agenda item of reopening city facilities, Faribault County citizens Kelsey Nowak and another party presented the council with a petition to reopen the pool with 351 signatures on it. Nowak stated she had spoken to 10 previous lifeguards and pool managers who would be willing to help the cause.

That is, until the conversation opened up to address Walz’ opening of Phase 3 for the state, which would allow the Wells Community Pool to open at a specified capacity. The city’s street foreman and swimming pool overseer, Mike Pyzick spoke on the subject.

“I figured the square footage to manage six-foot social distancing measures, and the capacity of the pool would comfortably work for 144 people, with a maximum capacity of 300 people usually,” he said. “This does not include the baby pool.”

“You do have the capacity to reopen the pool,” added Holl.

“But it would not open right away,” added Pyzick. “I did not order chemical due to our last discussion, but I have reinstated our order. Some things still need replacing in the pool, and we still need to make sure we treat and stabilize the water. The earliest date we would be looking at would be the weekend of July 4. That’s as soon as we can go if everything goes according to plan.”

Pyzick also stated that his main concern with the reopening of the pool would be the safety of the pool employees.

“I’m not so worried about the pool itself, but I am worried about the cleanliness of the locker rooms and how that would be maintained with a fairly constant flow of traffic through them. Pool goers are supposed to shower before they enter the pool, but we know many do not. As it was brought up in earlier meetings, some people would have loved to go to their family member’s funeral, but couldn’t due to the pandemic. Same thing here. I want to keep people safe. I’m just being realistic.”

“And if the dial rolls back, we roll back too,” said Mayor David Braun with regard to Walz’ opening of Phase 3.

Councilwoman Brenda Weber made a few suggestions to assist the pool with its new requirements including having a full-time adult monitor on site, and to consider having pool reservations for the community.

Council members and City Hall staff figured an average of 75-80 pool guests is normal traffic for the pool, suggesting that they would not get too close to the maximum 50 percent capacity of 144 people at the pool.

Other restrictions in place, mandated by the state, would include people within the pool building would have to wear masks, no lawn chairs or pool toys would be permitted, and any child 12 and under would require adult supervision.

“That’s a rule at the pool anyway,” said Pyzick. “But it is not followed. Now, we will have to be adamant about enforcing these policies that we were lenient about before.”

Another concern was the number of lifeguards that would be available. Pyzick said he was not satisfied with the 10 volunteers mentioned in the petition.

“I would at least want 15, if not more lifeguards in order to have a complete rotation and flexibility in the schedule,” said Pyzick.

“If we can make it work, I say we can try it out but it is a lot of logistics,” said councilman John Herman. “If people want it open, people better step up to the plate to help.”

Herman made a formal motion to direct city staff to open the pool by July 4, but stipulated that the pool could not open if swimming pool staff could not reach 15. The motion passed unanimously.

The rest of the city’s facilities will also see some changes.

The golf course clubhouse will remain closed, but has had its security system upgraded and has cameras watching the course to ensure golfers pay their fees.

The Wells Library will open with a 10-person limit. Holl made sure to mention Betsy Bushlack’s efforts on making sure the library had a commendable plan for re-opening safely.

Public restrooms as well as the Wells Community Center would remain closed. City Hall and the Department of Motor Vehicles would re-open.

City parks and the golf course have already been open, but Holl reminded the council that equipment should not be shared and outdoor gathering events still must maintain a limit of 25 people.

The Wells Flame Theater will open with a 75-person maximum attendance and no new movie releases will be available until the end of July.

The Wells City Council also:

Closed a road off of Thurman Street that has not been used in a long while. There was discussion on vacating the street, but the council chose not to take that route and discuss it later. John Herman abstained from this vote as the street is adjacent to his business, Herman Manufacturing.

Approved a tile outlet request from Bryon Voight which would allow a tile outlet to be installed into the stormwater pond to drain a wet area of his field that has resulted from the Wells Business Park’s construction.

Filed a suit for a court order regarding a zoning ordinance issue at a Wells residence. The residence has not been compliant with city code for close to a year and a half and the residents of the house have not communicated with the city. All but Weber voted in favor of the suit.

Hired a new part-time liquor store employee, Kendal Olson, at $10.25 per hour.

Were informed there are still three vacancies on the Wells boards including one vacant seat on the Planning and Zoning board, and two vacant seats on the Board of Adjustment and Sppeals.

  • Held a special City Council meeting last Thursday, June 4, to permit the Wells VFW to have outdoor seating for its customers. Erin Eckwright said she has a liability plan in place and has rules clearly posted at the facility. VFW hours are from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Reservations can be made by calling 553-5411.

The next regular Wells City Council meeting is scheduled for July 13.