Hilliard City Council could decide Tuesday, May 26, whether the city’s two pools will open for the season.

“The administration needs a signal from us as to what direction they should go,” Hilliard City Council president Andy Teater said.

Council members met in a special work session May 20 to hear from City Manager Michelle Crandall regarding possible scenarios for opening the pools after Crandall announced April 27 that the pools would be closed for the season.

On May 14, Gov. Mike DeWine said pools could open May 26 if requirements were met.

A yes-or-no decision isn’t guaranteed for council’s May 26 meeting.

“But there is a time factor to pull the trigger,” said Teater, adding that by May 26, more should be known about requirements from Franklin County Public Health and what other central Ohio communities are doing, Teater said.

If the city chooses to open the pools, it will require a permit from Franklin County Public Health based on social-distancing and other guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health, Crandall said.

Franklin County Public Health could impose additional requirements, and those should become clearer during a Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission meeting May 21, Crandall said.

If City Council chooses on May 26 to open the pools, the soonest the Clyde “Butch” Seidle Community Pool could open is June 5, and the earliest the Hilliard Family Aquatic Center could open is June 15, she said.

The decision does not have to be made May 26, but the longer the decision is put off, the shorter the window for receiving revenue, she said.

IF they are able to open, the pools would operate at a combined deficit of $528,897, according to a report from the administration.

The report projects expenses of $841,326 and revenue, under the new requirements, of $312,429, for the 2020 pool season.

The revenue is based on a $5-per-person charge for one visit to the pool for an assigned two-hour window, Crandall said.

Passes would not be sold, said Ed Merritt, director of the recreation and parks department.

Besides the financial aspects, other challenges are present, according to Crandall, including maintaining minimum lifeguard staffing and workers’ compensation for lifeguards if any are diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Other challenges are logistical, she said.

It is yet to be determined whether the city’s current system could adapt to the new way of doing business, Crandall said, including accepting payments and registering patrons for specific times and dates.

One proposal establishes four sets of two-hour windows Mondays through Saturdays, with closures in between for staff to sanitize the facilities. Three windows would be offered Sundays.

Patrons would be required to pay in advance for assigned times, online only, and the city would establish a policy that ensures equity in the frequency of use by individuals and families, Crandall said.

Another proposal is that Hilliard residents would be allowed to sign up first, and if availability remains, then school-district residents who live outside Hilliard city limits would be accommodated, Crandall said.

Refunds for inclement-weather closures are possible, but it would present a challenge based on the limitations of the online purchasing system, Crandall said.

The city also would have to establish an immunity policy and possibly ask patrons to sign a waiver when making payments online, Crandall said.

Another challenge involves how lifeguards would determine whom to ask to maintain social-distancing guidelines in the pools as family members are not required to do so, Merritt said.

“One of the most challenging things will be educating the public,” Merritt said. “This won’t be a typical pool season. Part of me feels that opening up the pools is setting up our staff for failure.”

According to capacity calculations from the Ohio Department of Health, the maximum capacity at the Hilliard Family Aquatic Center, at Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park, is 178, and the capacity at the Clyde “Butch” Seidle Community Pool, formerly known as the East Pool, on Schirtzinger Road, is 87.

Councilman Omar Tarazi asked why capacity has to be based on 6-foot social distancing for all when many visitors will be family members, who aren’t required to abide by that standard.

“That is how we interpret the requirement,” Crandall said.

In an effort to gauge how the pool might be used, the city on May 21 sent a survey to about 2,800 individuals or families who had purchased pool memberships in 2019.

In the first half-hour of it being sent, 450 responses were received, Ball said.

Questions included how safe they would feel at the pool, how likely they were to visit under the new guidelines, which pool they usually attend and how often and how many are in their family, Ball said.

The responses will be part of the discussion May 26, he said

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo

----

Previous story

Hilliard council to weigh financial risk of opening pools

Hilliard City Council is scheduled to meet in a special work session at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 20, to listen to a report from the administration concerning “pool scenarios” for this summer.

The meeting will be held remotely “in consideration of the State of Ohio’s social-distancing guidelines” and will be available for the public to view at hilliardohio.gov, said council clerk Lynne Fasone.

The administration’s report shows the operating costs for required staffing and the revenue the city would receive from the number of allowable users if it decides to open the Hilliard Family Aquatic Center and the Clyde “Butch” Seidle Community Pool under the social-distancing requirements of the Ohio Department of Health.

According to the report, the two pools would operate at a loss of $528,897 for the current season under the social-distancing requirements.

In 2019, the pools operated at a loss of $63,447, with expenditures of $955,396 and revenue of $891,949, according to a financial report.

The report projects expenses of $841,326 and revenue, under the new requirements, of $312,429, for the 2020 pool season, according to the report.

Gov. Mike DeWine on May 14 announced that pools in Ohio could open May 26 if certain conditions are met, but Hilliard leaders have not decided whether they will reverse a standing decision to close the pools for the season.

“At this time, we have not changed our policy,” David Ball, communications director for Hilliard, said May 19.

He said Hilliard would continue to work with other central Ohio communities through the Central Ohio Mayors and Managers Association “to assess the newly released guidelines associated with pool openings” and whether following those guidelines “makes sense from a public safety, feasibility and economic standpoint.”

The governor’s guidelines are expected to be part of the discussion when City Manager Michelle Crandall confers with City Council on May 20, Ball said.

“(The meeting) is to provide information on the guidelines and what it would look like if we try to open our pools from a safety, practical and financial standpoint,” Ball said.

Crandall on April 27 announced the closure of the Hilliard Family Aquatic Center at Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park and the Clyde "Butch" Seidle Community Pool on Schirtzinger Road for the season.

The Ohio Department of Health’s requirements for aquatics facilities include the installation of “physical barriers” and “visual cues” to ensure 6-foot distancing and, with few exceptions, for employees to wear face masks.

Hilliard would be required to obtain a permit from Franklin County Public health to open, Ball said.

The city of Upper Arlington announced May 19 it plans to open two pools with restrictions in place on June 8, pending approval from Franklin County Public Health.

Under its scenario, only residents would be permitted to use the pool at $7 per person for 90 minutes, reserved in advance.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo