Council Discusses Phase I Reopening Plan, Pool to Open

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Michelle Phillips

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Aquatic Center will open!

The Middleton Common Council voted to open the facility at their May 19 meeting, following guidelines set forth by Public Health of Madison and Dane County (PHMDC).

Before the vote council members asked questions of Rebecca Price, assistant director of recreation, including those about capacity, sanitation and social distancing. Price told them that in Phase I the pool can open at 25 percent capacity, but she sees the pool reaching that number gradually. All furniture will be removed, and cleaning procedures will be ramped up to ensure public safety. In addition, she said it would be unlikely that the pool could accommodate the Middleton Gators swim team with the restrictions, and reminded the council that swim meets are currently not being held.

At the beginning of the meeting Gators coach Matt Flannagan made a plea to open the pool.

Price said she anticipated fluctuating between Phase I and Phase II throughout the summer. “I don’t think we will make it to Phase III this summer,” she said and explained that Phase II allows for 50 percent capacity and Phase III is 100 percent.

Kathy Olson was the only alder to dissent with a “no” vote. Olson expressed concerns for public safety and cautioned against trying to open too quickly.

The council will leave the opening date to Parks & Rec, and no date was set at the meeting.

In addition to discussion on the pool, the council also heard reports from Middleton City Administrator Mike Davis, library director Jocelyne Sansing and senior center director Tammy Derrickson on their plans for opening their respective buildings.

Davis explained that the city would be hiring SERVPro to deep clean all of the buildings and to train the city custodial crew on increased cleaning procedures, pending council approval, which was given later in the meeting. He said on July 6, when the city enters Phase II, disinfecting procedures would be evaluated and adjusted if necessary.

He said the city currently has plenty of masks, and purchased rubber gloves. The Madison Area Chinese American Association made an additional donation of 1,000 masks, the second donation from the group.

Plexi-glass will be installed in areas where employees encounter the public at all three buildings, Davis said. In addition hand dryers will be replaced with paper towel dispensers in the restrooms.

City Hall will only be open by appointment and the public will be limited to the council chambers and conference rooms. He said employees who display COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to work.

Floor markings will be placed to provide social distancing, cash will be placed on the counter when making transactions and signage will be placed throughout the building. Davis said touch points will be removed if they cannot be properly cleaned.

Alder Katy Nelson asked if there was a sufficient air exchange rate in the building. Davis said the inspector found it to be sufficient. “At times I wonder about that,” Davis stated.

Employees will also be required to wear masks when meeting with others. Alder Susan West said she would like to see employees wear them anytime they are working with another person, including at one another’s desks. Everyone coming into City Hall to conduct business will also be required to bring and wear a mask.

Masks will also be required in the library and Sansing said the library board made the decision to require masks based on statewide recommendations.

Recommendations will also be followed when sanitizing materials, handling returns and the number of people allowed in public spaces. She said currently the library is still not accepting returns, but all materials will go through quarantine when they are accepted again.

She reminded that the library has been shut down since March 13, and has been utilizing Zoom and social media for virtual meetings and events (see library schedule, page 3).

She told the council the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has a five to six stage plan for reopening. In accordance with the plan, only the first floor would be open during Phases I and II. 

She said anyone who is ill will be asked to leave and there will a personnel policy for employees showing signs of illness. She said the guidelines were in line with other libraries in the area.

Sansing said curbside pick-up was going well, though inter library loans are still on hold. 

Mayor Gurdip Brar asked how many pick-ups the library was doing a day, and Sansing responded that there had been 300-400 appointments and 800 materials a day going out.

Olson asked about computer use and Sansing said many people use the computers at the facility. They are currently close together, but would be spaced out, and the library may give guests laptops to use in other parts of the library. Olson also asked about copiers and Sansing, replied there was a copier on the first floor.

“We will be able to offer all services on the first floor,” Sansing said.

She said common areas will be cleaned after each patron.

Sansing said staffing had been a challenge and they are slowly reintegrating staff. She praised them for their hard work and adaptability during the pandemic.

“Our mantra moving forward is really slow and deliberate,” she said.

Derrickson also praised her staff, and said many have taken on duties typically fulfilled by volunteers, including packing meals. She said the senior center had also been shutdowns since mid-March. The focus since that time has been on maintaining nutrition and case management programs.

In April 1,132 meals were served and Derrickson said each Meals on Wheels client was also receiving 20 shelf stable meals in the month of May.

She said she and her staff and working with the most vulnerable population at the senior center and the center will take a “slow and measured” approach to opening.

She said she expects to be in Phase I through June, but added that not much will change. The center will, however, start offering one on one appointments again. In July, Phase II would allow 10 people or less to gather at a time. If all goes well, during Phase III in August, the center would open other programs.

Derrickson said she is holding out hope that the pandemic will subside, and added that hope is something that is important to seniors. She said many face loneliness and isolation, but caution is also important.

“No one will be playing cards anytime soon,” she said.

The council rejected an increase in height of two feet for the Trotta building, which would make the building 43 ft. and 48 ft. with the balcony. The council expressed concerns about the parking garage being below ground in an area that is known to have a high water table.

The council voted the send the design back to the Middleton Plan Commission, with the idea that they would like to see above ground parking, which was determined to be more important than limiting the height of the building. The zoning change and General Implementation Plan (GIP) were deferred until revisited by the Plan Commission.

The council worked through approvals of committee appointments to be made by Brar. Council members challenged the decision to keep Cynthia Richson on the Airport Commission for a one-year term. The single year term would have kept Richson on the committee through the completion of the Airport Master Plan.

Alder Mark Sullivan asked if Richson would still be allowed to serve on the Airport Master Plan Advisory Committee, and City Attorney Larry Belcher said she could. A motion was already on the table by alders Luke Fuszard and Robert Burck to approve the appointment.

Sullivan made a subsequent motion not to approve the appointment, which was seconded by Nelson. Several alders said they had received complaints that Richson’s opposition to the potential airport expansion has slowed the Master Plan and cost the city additional money.

Alder Dan Ramsey said, “It’s inappropriate to have a neighboring elected official with opposing views on the committee.”

West agreed and added, “She is incredibly disruptive. Her behavior is inhibiting what needs to be done on the airport commission.”

Nelson said she agreed with Ramsey and West. “We own this airport. It’s our job to figure out what we need, then open it up to other communities,” Nelson said.

Alder Emily Kuhn added that her constituents were “very upset about this.”

The motion to reject Richson’s appointment was approved with Fuszard, Burck and Olson dissenting.

The council approved the following:

• A stormwater agreement for PPD’s new location on Deming Way.

• Repairs to the Capitol View Road bridge at a cost of $32,000.

• A city floodplain survey.

• Waiving interest and penalties on property tax payments, retroactive to April 1.

• A GIP for Triton Car Spa.

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