De Pere common council discusses reopening of facilities
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – The De Pere Common Council took action on its Phase 1 plan to reopen city facilities and programs at its Tuesday, June 2, meeting.
A memo to the city stated there is currently no concise guidance from either the federal or state level and no consistency throughout the state on how communities should mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Essentially, decisions are left up to a community to determine how to best deal with the pandemic.
It’s strongly recommended a face mask or face covering be worn by all citizens entering city hall, police department, community center, municipal services center, Fire Station No. 1 and Fire Station No. 2.
Most of the above-mentioned facilities will have limited public access, and in-person meetings are discouraged but allowed by appointment.
Also, face masks or face coverings are encouraged for all citizens participating in outdoor programs or events located at all other enclosed and open-air city facilities and properties.
All city council, committee, commission and board meetings will be conducted virtually until further notice.
The public can participate by following the instructions and links for either phone or internet participation provided on the agenda segment of the city’s website at deperewi.gov.
Parks, trails, recreational facilities
Most outdoor parks, trails, buildings and recreational facilities will be open to the public, including bathrooms.
Playgrounds will also be open, along with enclosed park shelters for groups of 50 or less.
“I’m curious about other aspects of the plan, specifically playgrounds,” said Alder Shana Defnet Ledvina. “Are we going to have someone monitoring to make sure people are following the guidelines? In the last few weeks – despite signs being posted – people are all around the playgrounds.”
Marty Kosobucki, director of parks, recreation and forestry, said it would be difficult to monitor/enforce guidelines on playgrounds unless a complaint was filed.
He said the groups of 50 limit doesn’t apply to playgrounds.
Legion Pool, which is currently closed to the public, will remain closed for open swim but will have limited lap swimming and private swim lessons and rentals.
“Originally, we were thinking of not using the pool at all because it’s difficult to monitor with social distancing,” said Larry Delo, city administrator. “Most pools in the Midwest will not be open this summer, and the DHS (Department of Health Services) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommend we not open pools. We are in the vast minority on this one. We felt if there was some way we could use the pool in a limited capacity, we should try. Nobody was comfortable with open swim.”
De Pere youth baseball also got the go-ahead to have a season.
Deborah Armbruster, health officer/director for De Pere, said the guidance from DHS and CDC recommend youth activities be closed.
“What I heard from the last meeting was the council preferred to do what they wanted to do, rather than go along with what other communities are doing,” she said.
Kosobucki said the youth baseball leagues need to designate someone onsite to enforce its COVID-19 plan, which includes proper social distancing.
“The city is putting the burden on the leagues and probably won’t be actively policing it unless we get calls to investigate,” he said. “The leagues understand there is a high risk of having fields pulled from use if rules aren’t followed. De Pere baseball outlines that fact in its plan. We did require all of the leagues interested in running a league to submit a plan to be approved by myself and the health department.”
Alder Amy Chandik Kundinger asked if the enforcer of the league’s COVID-19 plan would be identifiable.
“We don’t have any requirements on how that person will be identified,” Kosobucki said. “We can talk to them to make sure that person stands out, maybe with a name tag.”
Alder Dean Raasch said youth sports are extremely valuable to a community.
“For us to have a vibrant community, we need youth sports,” he said. “We have ways to do this to make our leagues safe. Having been a youth coach for 15-plus years, I get it. I’m happy to hear youth sports in our surrounding communities are also being allowed to happen.”
Mayor James Boyd gave his thoughts on the matter.
“Everybody on staff wants the kids back – that’s never been an issue,” he said. “Being in this time with COVID, those decisions are not easy. Based on recent advice saying youth sports are discouraged, it makes our jobs even more difficult. This isn’t an issue of whether to build a roundabout, but it’s an issue of health and safety. We take it seriously.”
Boyd said parents have a choice on whether to let their kids play.
“Being a long-time coach, peer pressure is a real thing,” he said. “Not just with the kids, but with the parents, too. For those parents who have to make these decisions, it’s very difficult and will weigh heavily on their minds – I recognize their pain. There are safeguards in place, so we can pull the plug (on a league) at any time. That should give some comfort.”
Boyd said the De Pere Rapides Youth Soccer Club has canceled its season.
The alders voted unanimously to move forward with the Phase 1 plan of re-opening the city and allowing youth sports.