The David H. Madison Bexley Community Pool will not open this summer and the traditional Jeffrey Mansion Summer Camp will take a different form to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
"It is painful to us to be in a position where we're recommending against opening the pool," Mayor Ben Kessler said. "We have thought through all of the different variations of how to do it, we've looked at what other communities are doing, but at the end of the day, we have a responsibility to our residents. And we believe we are best exercising the responsibility by forgoing the pool opening this season."
The pool had been scheduled to open May 23, but the city of Bexley Recreation and Parks postponed the opening to May 29 to comply with Ohio's quarantine guidelines.
On May 20, Franklin County Public Health director Joe Mazzola released his recommendation that community pools not open for the 2020 season. On May 26, Bexley's Recreation Board held a special meeting and voted 5-0 to approve recreation director Michael Price's recommendation that the pool stay closed this year. At Bexley City Council's regular meeting May 26, Kessler and council members voiced support for keeping the pool closed.
Price said he, Kessler and recreation department administrators explored several different scenarios for opening the pool under state and FPCH social-distancing guidelines. He said he estimates the city would have lost $90,000 in operating the pool this summer due to attendance restrictions to enforce social distancing.
"Enforcing required social distancing is difficult to do in any setting," he said. "It's also difficult to do in a confined space like the pool in which people are moving constantly. Putting that on our (life) guards to enforce that and to be able to do that consistently is a big concern that we have."
Price said the results of a community survey the recreation department circulated earlier this spring indicated many residents preferred for the pool to not open this summer due to health concerns. Council President Lori Ann Feibel and Jen Robinson, chairwoman of council's health-and-safety committee, said they heard from numerous residents who expressed their preference for keeping the pool closed.
"I think that this is the smartest thing for our city," Feibel said. "We have to be smart stewards of our city's finances and, more importantly, we have to make sure that our citizens are as healthy as possible."
"The community, on the whole, is behind this decision," Robinson said.
In another programming move, the city will launch Jeffrey Care, a new program to replace Jeffrey Summer Camp, in June, Price said.
Whereas Jeffrey Camp operated at Jeffrey Mansion, Jeffrey Care will run June 8 through July 24 at Maryland and Montrose elementary schools and provide nine hours per day of daycare coverage, with various schedules for participants to choose from, he said.
"Jeffrey Summer Camp, although it's a ton of fun for many families, it meets their basic need from a daycare standpoint," Price said. "We wanted to make sure we could accommodate that as best as possible."
Operating in school facilities will enable staff to enforce required distancing better than the traditional summer camp at Jeffrey Mansion, Price said.
"We are set up to have 10 classrooms at Maryland, 10 classrooms at Montrose and we could even add more, if needed," he said. "It's a better situation for capacity. It's a better situation, most importantly, for controlling the environment and reducing risk of exposure."
Summer swimming lessons and youth baseball and softball leagues have been canceled.
Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave., will remain closed other than for appointments, and the nearby Memorial Shelter House and restrooms, the Clifton Shelter House and the playgrounds and basketball courts will remain closed.
The Jeffrey Park tennis and pickleball courts and Jeffrey Park Cabin restrooms reopened May 29, with distancing guidelines.
For more information and registration for Jeffrey Care, visit bexley.org/jeffrey-care. For more information about recreation programs and facilities, visit bexley.org.