Hillsboro shuts down pool for season

The Hillsboro City Council met on Tuesday, May 26 for a special meeting to decided if the Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center should open for the 2020 season or remain closed. The meeting was done via zoom. In attendance was all of the city council members as well as Mayor Lou Thurston, City Administrator Larry Paine, soon to be City Administrator Matt Stiles (who will replace Paine on July 1; Stiles observed only and did not vote or participate), HFAC Director Marci Cain and Hillsboro Rec Director Doug Sisk. The meeting was open to the public. After a lengthy discussion, a statement was issued in a press release. It is as follows:

Today, the City Council voted to close the municipal swimming pool for the 2020 summer season. “This was not an easy decision,” said Mayor Lou Thurston. “My heart says one thing, my head says another. In the end, it doesn’t appear that we can keep the pool open and keep social distancing and the CDC/Kansas Parks & Recreation Association cleaning guidelines to keep pool employees and the public safe. Safety of our children and their families is more important than the risk of opening the pool.”

We realize this may not be a popular decision and regret it had to be made. We recognize since the closing of the school session in mid-March, kids have been adhering to shelter in place guidelines to protect their heath. Marci Cain, pool manager and teacher, said “the decision to close schools was made because social distancing was not practical in the school setting. Social distancing is no better in the swimming pool setting.”

Looking at the liability of having the pool open was a critical element of the decision. Adhering to the strict letter of the CDC guidelines requires almost constant cleaning once a swimmer touches slide or diving board rails and even including restroom facilities. One thing that needs to be stressed about making this decision is not only the impact on the patrons but also the impact on pool employees. We can let patrons determine their level of risk tolerance but when we require pool employees to be on the job, our risk tolerance must consider their safety as well.