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Park board votes to keep pool closed for year

By Dennis Minich

While many city facilities are reopening, the Harrisonville outdoor swimming pool will not be one of them. The Park Board voted May 5 to keep the pool closed this summer in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It was one of the most difficult decisions the board has ever had to make,” parks and recreation director Chris Deal said.

He explained economics as well as safety figured into the decision.

“We had to consider the social distancing guidelines, but there were also the financial considerations. The board had to consider how high the costs could go, we were dealing with a lot of unknowns,” Deal said.

After learning about the pool closure earlier this week, Karyn Burris, assistant director at Wee Rock Learning Center, Harrisonville, said, “Going to the pool was the kids’ favorite thing to do. We loved it. We would go every Wednesday.”

Burris added the weekly trip to the pool was reserved for school-age children, kindergarten through fourth grade.

“Right now, we’re checking on other things we can do, such as the community center’s indoor pool, but we’re not sure what will happen, ” Burris said.

Children’s Playhouse and Learning Center director Sara Combs echoed Burris’ sentiments.

“The children were very upset when we told them,” Combs said. “We’d spend about three hours there in the afternoons.

“I’m not sure what we’ll do this year. We’re checking to see if the Pleasant Hill pool is going to be open, or maybe the movies, but we haven’t made a decision.”

The annual budget for the pool is over $188,000. Deal said in a normal year the pool would generate about $33,000 in season passes, $93,000 in daily passes or partial passes with additional revenue generated by concessions, rentals and other income with $25,000 coming from the city’s general revenue budget.

Deal said the modeling the board looked at the amount necessary from the general fund could have been two to three times more than normal. He added there would also be additional employee expenses to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and the city still does not know how much Coronavirus mandates will cost the city in terms of lost sales tax revenues.

Although the outdoor pool will remain closed, the indoor pool at the community center will be open. The community center reopened to the public on May 11.

Deal said 141 people used the center on the first day and by last Friday the daily attendance had grown to over 200. Under the state COVID-19 plan, the center can hold 226 people at a time. In the past the center could average anywhere from 250 to 400 patrons per day.

Other park activities are resuming. South Metro baseball and softball leagues which include teams from Harrisonville, Pleasant Hill, Belton, Raymore and Peculiar will begin play on June 1. Day camps and summer camps are resuming as are fitness classes.

The only unknown at this point is whether the city’s annual July 4 celebration will be held. Deal said many cities including Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs have cancelled their city celebrations and Belton has delayed its event until August. The Harrisonville Park Board is to discuss the possibilities at its next meeting on June 9.

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