Cortez residents will still be able to recreate this summer, although it will look different.
On May 12, the City Council approved a series of recreation-related items, including the closure of the outdoor pool, along with recreation division layoffs and rehirings, to account for shifting needs in the COVID-19 landscape.
The city also reopened the tennis and pickleball courts, although under strict guidelines.
Outdoor pool closedThe council voted unanimously to close the outdoor municipal pool for the 2020 season, which would save money and deal with uncertain pool operations.
“From recent statewide, aquatic, Zoom meetings, no clear direction has been given, allowing for swimming pool facilities, except for lap swimming and one swimmer per lane,” said Dean Palmquist, director of Parks and Recreation, at Tuesday’s meeting. “Red Cross has yet to give much guidance on swimming lessons, water safety instructors and lifeguard classes.”
By closing the pool for the season, the net savings for the city’s general fund would be about $105,000, after taking expenditures and lost revenues into account, Palmquist said.
Councilors agreed that closing the pool for the 2020 season made sense, both because of the uncertainty of the situation and for savings that might allow the city to avoid further furloughs.
Because the city had received Great Outdoors Colorado grant funding for the outdoor pool’s renovation in 2011, Palmquist reached out to a GOCO representative – GOCO grant funds usually are allocated with the expectation that a GOCO project operate for 25 years. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the representative gave Cortez permission to close the outdoor swimming pool if it was in the city’s best interest.
Rec center employees redeployedThe Cortez Recreation Center has been closed since March 16 to comply with the governor’s stay-at-home executive order. Employees were given the option of working for the city on projects such as graffiti removal and park and golf course maintenance, and the animal shelter.
“Over half of the staff chose to work and continued to collect a paycheck, and less than half chose not to work and did not collect a paycheck,” Palmquist said.
Because of the hiring freeze implemented in March, the golf course maintenance division and park maintenance division have refrained from hiring seasonal employees. Instead, rec center and programming staff have been supporting both maintenance divisions.
Right now, the city is looking to enact Tier 1 of the rec center reopening plan, with a target implementation date of May 18. Under Tier 1, the center would only allow lap swimming and drop-in exercise with cardio equipment, machines and free weights.
With no fitness classes and limited use of the Rec Center facility, Palmquist asked City Council that nine lifeguard positions, one child watch attendant position and 10 fitness instructor positions be laid off until those operations resume.
Other full-time and part-time positions would remain, including pool managers and lead lifeguards for the competitive pool area for lap swimming. Savings from the layoffs would amount to about $120,000, Palmquist said.
On the maintenance side, the Parks and Recreation Department sought to fill some temporary positions.
Staff sought 1.6 full-time equivalent temporary employees to be hired back to the park maintenance division and 1.54 FTE temporary employees for golf course maintenance. Considering that the full number of temporary employees wouldn’t be returning to either division, the cost of the requests came out to $44,961 for the parks division, with $85,547 in staff savings; and $41,361 for the golf course, with $40,337 in staff savings.
The City Council unanimously approved the layoffs and rehirings, although they did have questions about social distancing at the rec center.
Councilor Arlina Yazzie also asked whether laid-off employees could be prioritized for the new job opportunities.
“I know that at least for the lifeguard positions and the child watch attendant, those are young adults that are working for the rec center,” Yazzie said. “And I think it would be great if we could allow them to keep working.”
Palmquist replied that for safety reasons, they would have to look at candidates with experience handling the necessary machinery.
“When we talk about the golf course and the park maintenance, there’s a lot of safety protocol that has to happen,” Palmquist said. “And also you have to be at least 18 years of age to be able to run that equipment.”
Tennis and pickleball courtsDuring a workshop before the regular meeting, City Manager John Dougherty announced that the tennis and pickleball courts would be reopened with precautions on Wednesday.
The courts now will open only for singles play, with just one ball per court for pickleball games, and one ball per person for tennis. Players are expected to label a personal ball that only they can touch during a game, and to stay 6 feet apart from one another when around the court areas.
According to Dougherty, volunteer court ambassadors will help city staff monitor the courts throughout the day.