Dyersville Aquatic Center

After two weeks of gathering comments from the public and reexamining the financial impacts and realities of COVID-19 restrictions, the Dyersville City Council voted 3-2 to keep the aquatic center closed for the summer.

At its previous meeting, the council laid out three possible paths forward, which included closing the pool or a July 1 public opening either with or without swimming lessons.

But after taking a closer look and holding a discussion with the Parks and Recreation Board, City Administrator Mick Michel said there were only two viable options — either close the pool entirely or just host private lessons.

In any typical year, the pool operates a net loss for revenue of approximately $118,000, but for 2020, the council had a choice of exactly how much it was going to cost the taxpayers and if that loss was going to be worth what the pool was going to be able to offer.

Even with if closed entirely, the pool would still lose $63,415 and with only hosting private lessons, that loss would be $163,649.

After laying out the facts, Mayor Jim Heavens had each council member share what they had heard from constituents over the past two weeks.

Councilmember Jim Gibbs said with the restrictions being proposed, he had heard from several people it might not be worth the additional $100,000 just to host private lessons.

Gibbs suggested instead allocating some of that money to clear up landscaping issues surrounding the pool and give the whole property a facelift.

Councilmember Mike English wondered if it was possible that between now and the proposed July 1 opening if the Iowa Department of Public Health or the CDC might change their tunes and allow for pools to operate under less restrictions.

After Michel said he had not seen any indications of that being a possibility, English stated he was leaning toward closing for the summer to save money and instead focus on getting the pool ready for the 2021 season.

Councilmember Tom Westhoff said when digging through the numbers the council was previously presented, he noticed the estimated salary costs were marked at $78,000, which he thought was high for only staffing the pool for private lessons.

After consulting with city staff, that number was revised down to $25,000. Westhoff said while that was a substantial savings, he wasn’t sure it would persuade the public in either direction.

But Westhoff added that as a parent, there is a certain sense of safety gained from knowing your child can swim, so he was in favor of offering lessons.

Councilmember Jenny Ostwinkle Silva said the responses she heard were split, and while it would be nice to offer the public something, everyone understood if that wasn’t a possibility.

Councilmember Mike Oberbroeckling said he heard people wanted lessons, but he also didn’t want these new restrictions to be too much of a burden on staff.

While he thought it could be a challenge, he believed that people could take the associated risks if they wanted to.

Heavens wrapped up the conversation by saying he feels Dyersville has always prided itself on giving citizens a good value for their tax dollars, and given the reality of the situation, he didn’t think that was going to be a possibility this year.

But, he said, if the council was going to be taking away something from the public, it should consider giving something back.

Heavens suggested sequestering the 2020 pool budget and putting it toward adding new amenities for 2021, like the previously discussed splash pad.

After more back-and-forth, English motioned to close the pool for the summer, which was seconded by a reluctant Ostwinkle Silva. English, Ostwinkle Silva and Gibbs voted in favor, with Westhoff and Oberbroeckling against.