Will the Hutchinson Aquatic Center be open this summer? The question came up during last week’s City Council meeting and Matt Jaunich, city administrator, had some encouraging words.
“It’s my goal, my desire that we will have a pool season this year,” he said.
What the swimming season looks like, of course, will depend largely on state restrictions. The current guidelines stipulate that the number of people in the pool at any one time is limited to the number for whom social distancing of 6 feet can be maintained, with a maximum of 25% of the pool’s normal capacity or 250 people, whichever is smaller.
Jaunich said city staff are working on plans for how to open the aquatic center and meet COVID restrictions, and he believes the experiences of other aquatic centers will help.
“I think we know a lot more now than we did a year ago,” he said. “We know there were some pools that opened up later in the summer, so we have some examples to go off of.”
If the aquatic center does open at limited capacity, Council Member Chad Czmowski suggested a reservation system to help people plan their trips.
“It’s hard on families to get the kids all dressed up and go to a pool or go to a facility and not have room for you,” he said. “And for the families that don’t live in Hutchinson to drive to town, it would be nice if they could reserve a three-hour block or something.”
Czmowski also cautioned other council members that if the city determines to go forward with having a pool season regardless of capacity restrictions, the council should be prepared to handle a funding deficit, possibly with the city’s rainy-day funds.
“If we are committed to having a pool season, we have to be committed to having a funding mechanism, because it’s not going to be at the gate,” Czmowski said.
Jaunich agreed that proper planning is needed, but he again sounded optimistic that the city would be able to have a pool season without a massive $200,000-$300,000 deficit, which is what the city estimated last year when it closed the aquatic center for the summer.
“That’ll be some of the work we do between now and when we would open, just so everyone has an idea of what we’re looking at,” Jaunich said. “Obviously we’d have some reduced revenue, but I think we’d also have some reduced expenses as we look at potentially what staffing would look like.”