Mayor Bryan Jensen is feeling some heat over his decision to not open Avon's Aquatic Facility this summer. He's fine with that, and stands firmly by his decision.
During a phone call Friday, the mayor said he understands some residents are unhappy. Posts on various Avon Facebook pages seemed evenly split over the decision.
Jensen said it's his responsibility to make tough choices to protect all residents as the country and state and local communities struggle to understand the full impact of coronavirus, COVID-19, and the groups being hardest hit by the virus. That now includes children, initially thought to be a group least affected by the disease, which does not have a vaccine.
Referring to the aquatic center as “a place for fun,” the mayor, who is a father and grandfather, said he'd rather take grief for not opening than to open and have to face the parent of a child who catches COVID-19, and that includes kids who serve as lifeguards and summer maintenance help, he said.
Jensen announced the decision to keep the pool closed on May 11, 72 hours before Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced pools could open May 26. They promised guidance would be posted to the state website so local officials would know what safety precautions needed to be taken, and maintained, should they decide to open pools. As of Friday, that guidance had not been posted to the Lorain County Public Health website.
In a news release, Jensen said the factors he considered included the difficulty of enforcing CDC-recommended social distancing with large, daily crowds; the impracticality of disinfecting with enough frequency to confidently stop the spread of the virus in dressing rooms and restrooms, pool ladders, slides, lounge chairs, the snack bar and the many other busy public areas throughout the aquatic facility as well as hiring, training and properly protecting lifeguards and the other seasonal workers while the spread of coronavirus continued.
On the phone, Jensen reaffirmed his concerns about how children, in particular, could maintain social-distancing protocols.
“Until someone can show me there's a way to make it safe, I stand by my decision,” he said.
Avon Lake officials had not yet decided whether to open their pool or recreation center. Mayor Greg Zilka said they were waiting to review state guidelines before making the final determination. North Ridgeville's Splash Pad will not open Saturday as originally scheduled, according to the city's website.
Contact freelance writer Michele Murphy at Avonlakemurphy@gmail.com.