Blanding City Council discusses challenge of holding popular summer activities and events

The possibility of holding popular summer activities dominated the May 12 meeting of the Blanding City Council, including opening the pool, running baseball and softball seasons, and holding events for the Independence Day holiday.

Safely opening the pool is a chief concern. When the meeting was held, the state had yet to move to yellow-coded guidelines. That move became official later.

Opening the pool under orange conditions only for lap swim didn’t make sense for the city financially. City Manager Jeremy Redd notes that it costs about $10,000 a month to operate the pool.

Even under yellow-coded guidelines, operating the pool would be challenging. With the size of the pool and the amount of space required for social distancing, a maximum of 77 swimmers would be allowed in the pool at any given time. 

Redd notes this would be hard to track. He is confident, however, that the city could come up with a plan to make it work.

Councilmembers expressed reservations about opening the pool when there are many closed pools in surrounding areas, including Cortez, Farmington, Moab, Gallup, and more.  

A decision was made to not open the pool until the state moved to the yellow risk level. 

Two days after the council meeting, Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced the state would move to the yellow risk scenario starting May 16. 

The city wasted no time making plans. Recruitment of lifeguards was announced and registration for baseball and softball was opened. The pool is set to open June 1 and sports seasons will start soon.

In an email to the San Juan Record, City Manager Jeremy Redd shared measures the city would take to protect residents.

“There will be adjustments to the schedule and rules to ensure proper social distancing, but we should be able to run a good pool season during ‘yellow,’” said Redd.  

“There will be limits to the number of people in the pool to allow distancing on the pool deck.

“Softball and baseball will start soon with social distancing measures in place.

“The biggest changes will be cleaning equipment and asking spectators to keep at least six feet of distance between family groups.”

Councilmembers also discussed a myriad of options to hold the Fourth of July celebration with social distancing measures. 

Councilmember Cheryl Bowers said, “People are going to appreciate the ability to celebrate that holiday because they are afraid of losing their freedom.” 

Some ideas include a longer parade route, holding fireworks only, no vendors in the park, having a band play while people listen from cars, and more. 

Councilmember Logan Shumway pointed out that most social distancing measures the city would ask citizens to take are not enforceable. 

City Manager Redd added, “It is exponentially less enforceable when there are 7,000 people. We don’t have enough law enforcement.” 

Mayor Joe Lyman expressed a desire to hold a celebration in the fall.

He said, “I would rather have a party done well than a mediocre party. If we try to pull it off, we’re going to wonder, ‘Wow, why did we do that?’”

The mayor added that the state needs to move to green-coded guidelines by June 1 for a successful celebration to happen, which appears to be a long shot. 

The council agreed to continue the discussion at the next meeting. No decision was made.

The council passed a resolution regarding the COVID-19 government response. The city encourages state decision-makers to move the city from orange to yellow guidelines.

Councilmembers want the yellow guidelines to ease restrictions on the pool and baseball/softball seasons.

Under yellow guidelines, the pool would be open to 77 persons and sports seasons could resume with moderate social distancing guidelines. 

Councilmembers expressed concern that the county may be kept in orange-coded guidelines because of the high number of COVID-19 cases in the southern portion of the county.

They also expressed concern that the numbers for cases would go up with a free testing clinic set up in Blanding on May 15 and 16.

In other business, water for the city is 104.7 percent for the current water year as of April 30.

City-owned reservoirs are full and run-off is still coming, even though the snow is gone at Camp Jackson. 

Recreation Director David Palmer reported on recreation activities.

The baseball and softball seasons were still up in the air as of the May 12 meeting, but have since been given the green light as the state moved to yellow-coded COVID-19 risk guidelines. 

The wellness center opened May 1. Palmer reports that customers have been good about honoring the strict guidelines implemented.

“They are excited we are open and willing to follow rules, so they can be there and work out,” he said. 

While the wellness center was closed, they completed a number of maintenance tasks, including patching holes, dings, and nicks in the workout rooms.

The main gym was painted, as was the walkway to the dressing rooms. Workout rooms were also painted.   

Police Chief J.J. Bradford reported fewer cases and arrests in April as fewer people came through town.

The numbers are beginning to edge up in May as more come through town. Cases will increase as the court starts looking at cases again. 

He said that April 2020 saw more Driving Under the Influence, drug, and domestic assault cases compared to 2019.  The chief couldn’t say for sure if it was related to COVID-19.

Officers have been completing online P.O.S.T. training and a new officer is expected to complete his training in June. 

A public hearing on the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget and 2020-2021 utility transfer was held.

No comments were submitted to be read and no citizens attended to speak.

Council members voted to accept an emergency gas transmission agreement with Dominion Energy.

The agreement allows the two entities to sell gas to one another should damage to the lines occur or a major incident take place.

A lateral tie-in east of Monticello serves as the junction point where the two systems meet.

Without an agreement, one entity couldn’t sell utilities to the other. 

Four new businesses will be recognized by Mayor Lyman.

They include Cedar Mesa Animal Clinic, Monument View Massage, Serenity Peak, and Farm Bureau Financial Services.

Plaques will be delivered to the businesses.

San Juan Record

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Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
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