Chanute city commissioners unanimously voted to keep the Maring Aquatic Center closed through the summer Monday evening.
Commissioners cited staffing difficulties for the decision. Pool director and interim Chanute Recreation Commission Director Monica Colborn said she has seven lifeguards hired and six more applicants who need to be certified.
That would not be enough to use the lazy river feature. She also said three of the certified lifeguards and three of the other applicants have restricted schedules, and commissioners said they did not want to put too much stress on the teenagers.
A large part of the issue is due to necessary social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“This is not a typical season,” Colborn said. “We struggle in a good year to get lifeguards.”
She said there are a lot of unknowns and uncertainty.
Interim City Manager Todd Newman said Pittsburg has closed its pool, but other communities have still not made decisions.
“Everyone is waiting to see what everybody else does,” he said.
Pool closure in one community may cause swimmers to go to another. A pool might be limited on the number of swimmers it can admit and how long they can stay. The question becomes what to do with other swimmers who have been dropped off outside of the pool.
Commissioner Sam Budreau said Chanute’s pool differs from other community pools.
Colborn said social distancing makes it difficult to train potential lifeguards or even make rescues. She compared lifeguards to emergency first responders, and said training involves a 28-hour course including both practical and book study.
“You cannot wear masks in the water,” she said. “We have to rethink how we operate our pool.”
If diving boards are restricted, the pool might be limited to 43 people at a depth of up to 12 feet. Colburn said she would need three lifeguards on deck, one at first aid and one on a break rotation, and the season might be limited to July 1 to Aug. 9 due to the beginning of school.
“I lose a lot of lifeguards to college,” she said.
Newman said the parks department has not taken the tarp off the pool or started the cleaning process, which requires good weather. He said the opening is already a month behind.
Budreau said he is a proponent of opening the pool, but his biggest concern is safety.
“I don’t have a comfort level with staffing,” Commissioner Tim Fairchild said.
Newman said it is difficult to get applicants for any seasonal position and the pool has traditionally had to work hard to stay open until Labor Day. He said lifeguard applicant numbers have been decreasing every year.
Commissioners approved an additional $7,000 in funds to the city’s Fourth of July celebration, added to their original commitment of $5,000.
Organizer Larry Pierce said the celebration has run into special circumstances. Social distancing and shelter-at-home requirements have limited fundraising events.
“This is just kind of a crazy year,” he said.
Organizers had proposed bringing in bands and having a beer garden with the holiday falling on a Saturday. Pierce suggested a reduced band lineup that will include Robbi Bell opening, followed by Dirty Molly and Pompous Jack.
The goal is to raise $12,000 for the fireworks display, in addition to the money for musicians. One payment of $4,000 has been made for fireworks and they have $2,500 to make a second payment. The commission’s $7,000 includes $3,000 for bands, leaving organizers to raise the remaining amount.
Pierce said the Chanute Regional Development Authority has agreed to sponsor a bounce house.
If the celebration is canceled, due to inclement weather or other circumstances, the fireworks payments would carry over to next year and bands would not be paid. Pierce said they would not have a beer garden if bands do not perform.
Budreau said he wanted to give the community a sense of normalcy.
“And now they don’t have a pool,” Commissioner Phil Chaney said.
The funds will come from the Transient Guest Tax fund.
Commissioners also approved an inter-local agreement with the Chanute school district for the Santa Fe Park ball complex.
The school district is moving ahead with installation of turf on the ballfields and the compact with the city essentially is a lease agreement. The school district will hold the warranty on the turf.
Auditor Neil Phillips of Jarred, Gilmore & Phillips presented a report on the 2019 audit. He said it was a really good audit, which the commission accepted.
Phillips said the city was under-budget and made the final repayment to Ash Grove Cement on its five-year payback of disputed property taxes. But he noted that the state has issued warnings about revenue because of COVID-19.
Phillips said Chanute has not seen the numbers that the state is predicting, but the gas taxes will be down and statewide sales taxes will be down.
Commissioners also approved the transfer of property in the Osa Martin subdivision as part of an agreement with Orizon Aerostructures to build employee housing.