Boonville city leaders announced this week that the Lions Park Aquatic Center will remain closed for the 2020 season.
In a letter sent on behalf of the city, Boonville City Administrator Kate Fjell said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution for public health, budgetary considerations and staffing challenges.
Pushing the opening date back was considered, but a concrete opening date proved elusive. The city didn’t want to have an “are we in or are we out” situation, Fjell said.
The decision was incredibly tough, she said.
“It was probably the one that we have agonized the most,” she said. “However, I think it’s the right decision.”
Public health concerns were the main factor for the decision. If the pool were to open, maintaining or enforcing social distancing at the pool would be nearly impossible, Fjell said.
“It’s just an area where lots of people congregate,” she said. “I think there was some concern as we are still working our way through COVID-19 that maybe having 50, 100, 200 and 300 people in one area is not a good idea.”
The city did not want to short change lifeguards either, Fjell.
“It just seemed fair to them to just say ‘I’m really sorry, this year is not going to work but I will see you next year,’” she said. “We didn’t want them to be stuck [without work] waiting for us to open.
Boonville, like many other municipalities, was looking at its summer programs and activities and was trying to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy. The reduction of city staff in April made it difficult to get the pool ready for operation, Fjell said.
Pool staff also are not fully certified for the 2020 season, either. These issues made opening by Memorial Day a challange, Fjell said.
The city also had to consider minimum wage increases, Fjell said.
“Cities are exempt from the minimum wage requirements, but if a 16-year-old can go get a better wage wherever, they’re going to take that job rather than the pool,” she said.
Summer sports leagues can restart with relative ease, but the swimming pool requires considerable work and planning, Boonville Mayor Ned Beach said.
The Lions Park Aquatic Center attracted more than 14,000 patrons in 2019. The pool makes $86,522 in revenue, but it costs $186,000 to operate each year. A majority of the expenses go toward lifeguard staff and cashier pay. The remaining costs are for other operations and supplies.
The pool has lost nearly $200,000 over the last two years.
“I know people look at the dollars and cents of it and think that’s crazy,” Fjell said. “The pool is not meant to be a revenue for the city, it’s a quality-of-life [benefit] that we just really feel is important for the community.
The city hopes to return to normal pool operations in 2021. It generally takes three staff members three weeks to get the pool ready to be fully operational and takes between eight to 12 hours per week to maintain.
Fjell said any individuals who have purchased pool passes or who have purchased them at charity auctions this year, may utilize them for the 2021 season. Call Parks and Recreation Director Paul Linhart at 660-882-7447 for details.
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