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Local

Will Maytag Pool close its 2020 season?

City identifies public health and finances as strong concerns

Poolgoers line up for opening day of Maytag Pool in Maytag Park in 2019. The city-owned swimming pool is in question whether or not the pool can safely open this season due to concerns about COVID-19.
Poolgoers line up for opening day of Maytag Pool in Maytag Park in 2019. The city-owned swimming pool is in question whether or not the pool can safely open this season due to concerns about COVID-19.

Since there are still concerns about public health and general finances amidst a pandemic, City of Newton staff said they ought to consider keeping Maytag Pool closed for the 2020 season. This would leave more than 30 seasonal employees without a job and a community without a staple summer recreation.

If the swimming pool in Maytag Park were to reopen, Newton Community Services Manager Brian Laube expects guests’ experiences will not be what they would anticipate. If a six-foot distancing restriction is enforced, about 49 people — 39 patrons and 10 staff members — could safely reside on pool grounds.

This number was determined by how many people could still fit into the pool’s storm shelter when social distancing rules are still in place. Since the pool usually averages about 150 patrons per day during a typical season, staff maintained it may not be in the city’s best interest to open in this very limited capacity.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced May 20 swimming pools would be permitted to reopen for lap swimming and swimming lessons; if Maytag Pool were to adhere to these restrictions, only six swimmers could lap swim at one time, Laube told the Newton Park Board during its meeting later that day.

Reynolds’ proclamation also said the establishments operating the pools must take reasonable measures to increase hygiene practices and “other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.” Otherwise, all pools, spas, wading pools, slides, spray pads and bath houses in Iowa are still closed.

“We’ve been led to believe that likely people will have to wear masks inside the fence when they’re not in the pool,” Laube said. “There’s a lot of problems or hurdles to overcome as far as cleaning. There are restrictions on the age of kids that can use different disinfectants and cleaning products.”

Staff may also have to book two-hour blocks for ticket admissions, or resort to either online or exact-cash options. Concession items would be extremely limited. Laube said the menus would be limited to bottled water and sodas. There are also concerns surrounding the number of lifeguards available.

Laube said one lifeguard has already found another job this season. Plus, pre-season, in-service training would be difficult to schedule or even complete. Training would require person-to-person contact as well, which may not be feasible at this point. If lifeguards can’t be trained, the pool would not operate.

Maytag Pool has a capacity of about 600 people, but it has never reached that maximum at any given point. The pool was close to that number when the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa had an overnight stay in Newton in 2018. Even at 50 percent capacity, the pool could not safely have 300 patrons.

If the facility opens in any kind of capacity, Laube told park board members the pool would have to be filled and use the same amount of chemicals it would need for a regular season. There are also water, electric and gas bills to consider. Whether there are 50 or 500 guests per week, the pool will have fixed costs.

Finances and revenues are technically an issue, but Maytag Pool often operates at a deficit every year. If the pool opens at a limited capacity, Laube estimated it would lose an additional $30,000 in 2020. Park board member Melanie Humphrey said the admissions from lap swimmers would not cover pool costs.

“We can’t put ourselves in a huge negative hole just so we can open it to make $500 when it costs us $7,000,” Humphrey said. “That just doesn’t make sense.”

Laube said the pool’s annual water bill is between $7,000 and $8,000 and about $1,300 to $1,400 is spent on gas to heat the water. Electricity costs $9,000 per year; $7,000 of which is used for circulation pumps when the pool is running. Chemicals to treat the water can also costs thousands of dollars.

The City of Newton has already budgeted money for the pool this season. If Maytag Pool does not open, Laube said about $90,700 of budgeted money would not be spent. The city’s community services division is keeping an eye on what other municipalities across the state are choosing the do.

On May 14, City of Cedar Rapids officials announced all city-owned pools and aquatic centers would remained closed for the summer, KWWL reported. Clive, Davenport and Sioux City, as well as many others, have decided to follow suit, too.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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