City Council says: open the pool, shoot the fireworks

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

The Sleepy Eye Family Aquatic Center will open at 50% capacity and follow all other guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health. That’s what the City Council decided at their June 9 meeting.

The decision is one that the council has discussed for several weeks, at council meetings and committee meetings. They knew their final decision would depend on what the state decided to allow. Well, that mystery was solved on Friday, June 5, when Governor Walz announced the next phase of opening businesses, places of entertainment and recreation. At that time everyone learned that pools would be allowed to open under a long list of guidelines about social distancing, sanitizing and 50% capacity.

The council’s discussion Tuesday evening centered around the somewhat confusing state guidelines. City Manager Bob Elston said Pool Manager Wendy Owens said she is ready to do what it takes and has staff available if the pool would open.

Elston said he’d calculated that 50% capacity, while maintaining social distancing, would amount to 190 people allowed to enter. He said they would need more signage, more advertising, and more people to run the pool under the guidelines.

Councilor Larry Braun expressed concern about opening the pool. He said, “The League of Cities does not recommend opening pools.” Braun asked what the city’s medical officer, Dr. John Pelzel, had to say about opening the pool. Mayor Pelzel answered that he says to follow the state guidelines.

A motion by Doug Pelzel, seconded by Gary Windschitl, to open the pool as soon as possible, passed on a 4-1 vote, with Braun voting no.

Public Works Director Mike Hardin said the pool will have to be filled and the water treated with chemicals (not ordered as of Tuesday). He said they should be ready to open by Saturday, June 20.

A quicker decision was made to approve the lake as the number one choice for July 4 fireworks—if it can be done there; and an area just southwest of the baseball field as the number two choice. The second option would allow people to park in a wide area and remain a distance from others watching the fireworks show. The council expects Fire Chief Ron Zinniel to make the final decision.

The discussion of July 4 fireworks did not include any mention of a gathering in Allison Park.

The council adopted a resolution authorizing the City to enter into a temporary outdoor dining permit agreement with MnDOT. They also approved allowing the City Manager to approve applications for outdoor dining in MnDOT’s right-of-way (on Main Street sidewalks). Elston said that with the state allowing restaurants and bars to open indoors at 50% capacity now, he did not know if any business still planned to apply for outdoor dining, but recommended having the agreement with MnDOT in place.

The council approved Sleepy Hollow 5th addition lot prices. Elston said he would get the lots advertised for sale.