City Council says opening local pool seems unlikely

By Kendra Hennis 
The meeting of the Tuscola City Council was called to order at 7:30 p.m. on June 8. The meeting began with a submitted comment by Margie Carter concerning the opening of Tuscola’s swimming pool. Carter said, “Tuscola City Council, I want to thank you for tabling the decision of closing the city pool for the season. As you may have seen, IDPH released guidance last week for swimming facilities such as ours. This guidance at the moment reflects Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan. It can then be reasonably assumed that the guidelines under Phase 4 will be more manageable and less restrictive as far as crowd size. As of now, “during Phase 3, swimming facilities licensed by IDPH, are not to be opened except for lap swimming, diving, swimming lessons, swim team practices, and therapy pool use.” With Phase 4 guidelines giving way for all outdoor activity, and crowds of 50 being permissible, I believe the city pool season can be saved. The main concern stated by council members was lifeguard certification. Certifications are valid for two years. If the city has a list of returning guards, pool management can rehire those whose certifications are still valid. With other pools in the area reopening, like the Stevens Family YMCA in Champaign just announced today, there will very likely be lifeguard certification training available to younger lifeguards should the need arise. However, with the limit of 50 people, more guards may not be needed. The 50-people limit is troubling, if the Tuscola pool does open, the same concern about our fireworks would apply, everyone from surrounding towns would come here for pool time. While it might not seem fair to non-residents, a restriction of only city residents can alleviate this issue. Restrictions on pool passes and having pool goers pay only with each admission, can also limit pool-goers. With our region on track to move onto Phase 4 on June 26, if there is any chance for the pool to reopen, perhaps a committee could be formed to work out details and presented at the June 22 meeting for a vote. Thank you again for the hard decisions you have had to make.”

The board then moved on to the reports of the offices. Mayor Dan Kleiss issued a thank you to the Tuscola city staff and public works crew for their work with the outdoor dining restaurant spaces. City Treasurer Alta Long presented that the TIF Delinquency report is still available. Drew Hoel, City Administrator then opened discussion with the board about the reopening of the community building and senior center for events. The board passed a motion that scheduled events can begin being held at the buildings as long as they agree to comply with the current Restore Illinois Guidelines. For the time being these spaces are only open for events and not the general public. 

One of the major discussions over the last couple of meetings was the concern about the city’s water system. The board unanimously passed a motion for a $12,000 PSA with Donohue & Associates for water audit and water balance. This was necessary because after the previous leak detection service, there were still no signs of a leak. This will allow for a more in-depth look at the system, hopefully allowing them to find and correct the issue. The board also unanimously passed a vote to purchase two new lift station pumps from Straeffer Pump & Supply in the amount of $9,152.60 for the system outside of Syngenta. 

The board then moved to the discussion of tabled items. The first was that of the FY2021 budget. Hoel asked the council to be familiar with the budget before the next meeting and to be able to take a vote on it then. They also discussed the municipal electric aggregation agreement. The board received a price for $0.0435 per kWh for an 18-month term beginning December 2020. This price compares to the current rate of $0.047. All Tuscola residents will recieve a letter on how to opt out if you do not wish to be a part of the aggregation.

Finally, the board began discussion on opening the swimming pool for the 2020 summer after hearing Carter’s comments to the board. Kleiss said that the problem not addressed in the letter is the cost of opening the pool, and the fact that it is very behind for the beginning of the season. The board agreed that even if the costs were feasible, they were significantly outweighed by the cons of opening the pool. They noted an end-of-season drop off that usually occurs around July 3. There are also increased sanitation and regulation problems with opening the pool. The council is beginning to brainstorm other safe alternatives for the community to have something to do this summer. 

The council also: 

* Approved the minutes from the May 26 meeting.

* Approved the payment of bills in the amount of $147,321.35

* Approved a resolution concerning the review and release of executive session minutes and the destruction of executive session audio recordings. 

* Approved the ratification and reaffirmation of prior acts of Mayor and City Council during the COVID-10 pandemic crisis period of electronic meetings from March 16, 2020 up to and including June 8, 2020.

* Adjourned until the next regularly scheduled board meeting on Monday, June 22.

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