By Shereen Siewert
Wausau officials voted Monday to wait another two weeks before making a final decision on opening one or all of the city’s three municipal pools.
Members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee met Monday to discuss the issue and seemed on the cusp of voting to close all pools for the year, amid recommendations by health and park officials. But Dist. 10 Alderman Lou Larson proposed waiting until June 1 to make a final decision to review any additional data that becomes available.
Dist. 3 Alderman Tom Kilian cast the sole vote against waiting to make the decision and said he was surprised by the outcome.
“As much as it pains me, I find it very difficult for us to offer a safe swimming environment for our families and our staff,” said City and County Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Jamie Polley.
Polley said she received several letters ahead of Monday’s meeting, most of which encouraged officials to open the pools. But Marathon County Health Department spokesman Dale Grosskurth told members of the Parks and Recreation Committee that given the close conditions at municipal pools, he could not recommend choosing to open.
Posting signage advising children to stay six feet apart “won’t be enough to keep children safe,” he said. Hand rails on slides and other play features also pose unique concerns.
“It’s hard to imagine managing 100 kids,” Grosskurth said. “I don’t see it as a good option. They’re playing hard, they’re breathing heavily…Kids will be kids. I don’t feel like this is a good choice to make.”
Grosskurth added that chlorine in the pool would not kill the virus inside the body.
Staffing is a major consideration in the decision, as at least 10 staffers are needed at each pool under normal conditions. Additional staff would be needed to adhere to additional cleaning standards and changes to operations, Polley said.
“There are measures we can put in place,” Polley said. “We can add staff. We can limit the number of people.”
But people still may choose not to go to the pools, Polley said, with concerns about the virus continuing in the community.
“And costs will be the same,” she said.
Karyn Powers, Marathon County Recreation Superintendent, said she is concerned about contact tracing should exposure happen at one of the pools.
“How would we contact trace those people?” Powers asked. “If we open to the public are we going to be taking names?”
That, Powers said, could open up additional health privacy concerns.
La Crosse, Baraboo, Madison, Holmen, Oshkosh, Arcadia, Kenosha and Melrose have already decided to close pools for the summer, while other communities are still having the discussion.