Council reaffirms decision to keep MPC, aquatic center closed

By Per Peterson

In a special meeting Tuesday evening to continue the discussion on openings and closures of city-operated facilities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tracy City Council reaffirmed its decisions to keep the Multi Purpose Center closed for the time being and keep the aquatic center closed for the summer.

The City posted online last Friday that the aquatic center will remain closed for the summer after Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement that he is extending his original executive order concerning social distancing and large gatherings until June 1 (he is expected to make further announcements sometime this week). The Tracy City Council last Monday decided to tie its decision on the fate of the aquatic center to what the governor said during his May 13 news conference. Although it’s unclear what the governor will decide to do this week or on June 1, the fact that the council linked its decision to what he said May 13 all but sealed the fate for the pool for this summer.

“The executive order said (pools) are closed through June 1, at this point,” Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen said last week.

Hansen said opening in June likely wouldn’t leave ample time to train lifeguards. Other council members agreed Tuesday that staffing was the main issue when it comes to trying to re-open the pool.

“This is a difficult decision the council made,” Hansen said. “But we’re making decisions based on the actions of the governor. We’re essentially reflecting what his orders are.”

Council member Jeri Schons said at Tuesday’s special council meeting that the council didn’t make the decision to close the pool lightly; she, among others on the board, recognize the negative effect that closing the pool could have on the community.

“We know the pool is a very important entity for this community in the summer,” she said. “I don’t think any of us want the pool closed … but even if the governor says you can open pools — but you have to meet these requirements — I honestly don’t know how you can keep kids safe in a pool setting.”

Schons said even stripping down the pool to its bare minimum — taking away all the pool chairs, for example — wouldn’t guarantee the safety of those who use it this summer.

“I just want the people to realize that we didn’t go into this lightly,” she said. “We just didn’t throw the towel in, saying it’s the easiest thing to just close it. I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about it. If I had small children, I’d be disappointed. It’s not gonna make everybody happy, but we have to look out for our community.”

In related city news, the Multi Purpose Center and Senior Dining program will remain closed, and the library is continuing with curbside pickup of materials. The Swift Lake Park campground is open for long-term camping only; overnight coming is not permitted. City parks, including bathrooms and playground equipment is open, but groups fo more than 10 are now allowed. All city and motor vehicle services will be available through the walk-up window only; driver’s licenses services opened on May 19; City Hall will be open to one family/person at a time for this service. Also, the VMC will remain closed for the time being.