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Mitchell benefits from reopening pool, golf course during pandemic

Mitchell benefits from reopening pool, golf course during pandemic

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Mitchell benefits from reopening pool, golf course during pandemic

Two boys adjust their goggles while getting ready to jump into the Mitchell community swimming pool. The town stuck with its original plan to open the pool in spite of a coronavirus pandemic.

As people look for ways to return to normal during a coronavirus pandemic, the swimming pool and golf course in Mitchell are experiencing record business.

Mitchell City Administrator Perry Mader said the city did close its library and city hall until some of the restrictions started to lift. The city council also met via teleconference during the closure.

“We gradually started to reopen with the city offices so people could pay their utility bills and get permits,” Mader said. “Now we’re pretty much back to normal — whatever normal is these days, although we still practice the six-foot protocol for social distancing.”

Mader said the city had planned to open the community swimming pool even before COVID-19 hit, so opening the pool was a leap of faith.

“Projections were changing rapidly in the first days of the pandemic in March,” he said. “Officials were hoping the ‘curve’ would flatten by the end of May. But my plan was to proceed as if we’re opening the pool on schedule, taking the precautions issued at the time and staying open until we were told we had to close.”

The initial plan for the Mitchell pool was to schedule two-hour blocks of time when people could sign up to swim. That kept the number of people in the pool at 10 at any given time.

But before the pool opened, regulations were changed to a maximum 25% capacity, leaving the Mitchell pool with a capacity of 75 people.

Right away, staff removed the basketball hoop next to the pool because it was attracting a lot of people. Six-foot markings were placed on the deck, around the pool, diving boards and the concessions area.

Mader said people in other towns have asked why their pool wasn’t open while the Mitchell pool was.

“Swimming pools aren’t one size fits all,” he said. “Just because we opened doesn’t mean other towns have to open because it’s not a cookie cutter decision. Our pool is very small capacity with a simple layout, so it was logistically easier for us to open so we didn’t miss a beat. That in spite of several of my colleagues telling me I was crazy for opening.”

Mitchell’s decision to open its swimming pool was a good one as attendance and revenues are up dramatically.

“The silver lining is that once the restrictions started to lift, people wanted to get outside and do things,” Mader said. “We wanted to provide a safe way for them to enjoy one of those activities while still keeping people safe.”

Just like the swimming pool, the city’s Scenic Knolls Golf Course had also seen a spike in numbers and in revenue.

“Some courses had restrictions, but we didn’t,” Mader said. “We didn’t enforce only one person per cart. As for group size, four people are pretty standard for golf. We handled our safety policy the same as at the pool.”

All of Mitchell’s policy decisions go back to one thing: Does it make the people safer?

“The city and the staff aren’t mavericks because we opened the pool,” Mader said. “We’re just doing what we feel is safe while adhering to the guidelines.”

With the goal to keep people safe and healthy, mental health is also a part of that. Mader said it’s a fine line to walk, but people just want to get back to feeling normal.

“We’re being constantly bombarded with can’ts — can’t go to school, or restaurants, or sporting events, or work,” he said. “It creates a fatigue factor in how people feel. It has an effect on the psyche of the entire community. So we’re happy to provide a break from the constant drumbeat of coronavirus.”

jpurvis@starherald.com

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