The usual discussion of whether or not to amend a coronavirus-related emergency ordinance first approved by the Vermillion City Council on March 30 spilled into areas not covered by the ordinance Monday night, including whether to offer the usual summer Vermillion Parks and Recreation programs.
The parks and recreation discussion, that included a presentation by city Parks and Recreation Director Jim Goblirsch, lasted for near 30 minutes.
Earlier Monday, the city council heard input from Goblirsch for approximately an hour as he noted that his department needed guidance on what can and can’t be offered by the city parks and recreation department as summer approaches.
Mayor Kelsey Collier-Wise shared her ideas as the discussion concluded, the most dramatic of which was to keep the Prentis Plunge aquatic center closed this season.
That idea and many of her other suggestions received no opposition from city council members Monday night.
“This would be my personal suggestion on these items: I believe that we should close the pool for the season. Things that we would have to do to make the pool safe or safer for people, I believe, would make an already fairly costly amenity even more costly and less accessible to many citizens,” Collier-Wise said. “There’s also an additional concern about people from other communities coming to our pool, especially now that Sioux Falls is closed.”
The City of Sioux Falls announced late Monday morning that all of its eight public swimming facilities will remain closed this summer.
“We know that we are going to have some budget issues and this is a way that we can save some considerable money and ensure some safety,” she said. “I would say that we should keep playgrounds and basketball courts taped off until our next meeting and revisit (that issue).”
Collier-Wise said she believes the city’s COVID-19 emergency ordinance has been working well.
“I think that as we see our (COVID-19) numbers continue to rise, it would make sense to see this particular version of this emergency ordinance through to the end of its life, which would be May 30,” she said. “I think June 1 allows us to look at things maybe under different circumstances, maybe not, and adjust accordingly.”
Vermillion’s COVID-19 positive tests went up to 12 on Friday, May 15, jumped by two to 14 on May 16, and increased by one, to 15, on May 17. On Monday, May 18, the number of positive COVID-19 tests in Clay County remained at 15.
“As we discussed somewhat at noon today, I think it’s important whether we talk about the emergency ordinance or the parks and rec protocols, that this isn’t just about the folks that are using these programs,” Collier-Wise said. “We do not, any of us, live in a vacuum in this community. The choices that we make affect other members of our community.”
She noted that all activities involve risk and the city can’t tell the public that certain activities are safe.
“We can’t say that and we don’t know it,” the mayor said. “There are definitely different levels of risk and what we consider acceptable levels of risk. There are also many members of our community without choices.
“There are people that, in order to access food, must go the grocery store. They cannot order online. They cannot have other people get their food for them. They expose themselves to people who may have been at a group sporting event, who may have been at the park with a lot of people,” Collier-Wise said. “They don’t have a choice in that. Whether they are elderly or they are compromised, they are members of our community and they have just as much of a right to be safe and healthy as anyone else has a right to enjoy things that we’ve enjoyed in the past.”
She noted that many members of the community are currently making sacrifices because of COVID-19, ranging from people who enjoy library programs to those who enjoy art camp and community theatre.
“We’re all making sacrifices, so I think it’s important to keep that in mind. We also have to realize that none of these things can be looked at as a risk by themselves; they have cumulative risks,” Collier-Wise said. “One thing being open tied in with another thing being opened and another thing being opened can definitely put us at risk.”
Earlier during Monday night’s meeting, Goblirsch had asked the council to provide answers to these questions to provide guidance to his department:
- When can softball and baseball teams begin limited practices? He suggested that full practices begin June 1 with games beginning in Vermillion on June 15.
- Can the City begin offering limited recreation programming?
- Opening of playgrounds and basketball courts?
- Should staff begin preparations for a June 15 pool opening?
“On the identified Parks and Rec programs, I think Jim did a good job of distinguishing what is doable compared to what is not and I really appreciate that. I think we can start advertising them; I would ask Jim to maybe look at the possibility of moving them back further into the season, even if we started registration now, depending on what our numbers are like,” the mayor said.
She noted that she believes that the city must recognize the fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation the city is facing.
“I would also ask that we consider requiring that our Parks and Rec employees wear masks when delivering these services,” Collier-Wise said.
She added that she supports the suggested date for the start of baseball practice.
“I think that having those practices starting, especially if there are no spectators and it is just the teams – I think that is doable with the idea that we could revisit this idea of games later on,” Collier-Wise said. “I think it’s the intermixing with folks from other communities that worries me the most.”