New Hampton Park Board member Eric Robinson makes a point as fellow board member Andrea Rochford listens during Monday's meeting.

New Hampton Municipal Pool won't open in 2020

Passionate discussion results in 3-3 deadlock; majority needed to open

The New Hampton Park Board split right down the proverbial middle Monday, and that means the city’s pool will not open this summer.

After passionate discussion from every member of the board, a 3-3 vote meant that the resolution to open the pool was not passed. Steve Murray, Andrea Rochford and Connie Boyd voted to open the pool while Eric Robinson, Sarah Dungey and Perry Laures voted against the motion.

City Attorney Kevin Kennedy said that because of the Park Board’s set-up, motions can only be approved by a majority vote.

“It’s not like the City Council where the mayor can break a tie,” he said, “because there isn’t an overseeing official.”

The vote Monday ended a debate that began in earnest last last month during a special meeting and continued during the Park Board’s regular meeting that was held June 3.

Board members had agreed to see if Gov. Kim Reynolds would loosen restrictions on pools before making a final decision, and last week, she did announce that she would allow pools to open for more than just lap swimming and lessons. But she said pools had to follow social distance guidelines by the Iowa Department of Public Health, which call for “reasonable” enforcement of staying 6 feet apart.

“This is a hard decision,” Boyd said, “and I don’t want people to think I don’t care about the safety of people who are using the pool. … But let’s move them forward and teach kids about this new normal. We can have teachable moments. Listen, the newness is here and it’s going to stay here for a while.”

“I think we should give everyone the opportunity to decide for themselves,” Murray said. “I’ve had so many people reach out to me and advocate opening the pool. … If you don’t think it’s safe, you can make that decision for your family.”

Parks and Recreation Director Rick Kramer and Program Director Tara Hackman came up with a plan to reopen the pool last week. It called for only private swimming lessons, lap swimming and three 1 1/2-hour open swim sessions. In between, the pool would close for 30 minutes for deep cleaning/disinfecting. They also said if the pool opened, it should be just for Chickasaw County residents, age limits would be adopted, only 130 swimmers would be allowed inside the pool and splash pad during each session and the concession stand would not open. And because of the lack of staff, neither the old slide or the newer drop-down slide would be open.

“This is the toughest decision we’ve had to make since I’ve been on the board,” Laures said. “Having 14-, 15- and 16-year-old kids, lifeguards, trying to keep 50 to 150 kids apart … I think it’s better to error on the side of caution. I know this is going to be an unpopular decision in this community, but we have to do what’s right, not what’s popular.”

Robinson echoed his thoughts.

“I just don’t think we should be taking that chance that someone gets the virus at the pool,” he said, “and brings it home. … That’s what worries me. It doesn’t matter if someone tells me that we won’t know if they got it at the pool. I just know kids that age, you’re herding cats, and I don’t we should take that chance.”
 

New Hampton Tribune

10 North Chestnut Ave
New Hampton, IA 50659
Phone: (641) 394-2111
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