During their May 7 virtual meeting, Northampton Borough Council decided to table its decision on whether or not to open the borough’s public swimming pool until at least May 21.
The discussion was added to the evening’s agenda by borough manager LeRoy Brobst.
“This [decision] I am going to leave in the hands of council,” he said. “I do not know if the preparation would be worth the result.”
Currently, Northampton County is in the COVID-19 “red” phase outlined by Governor Tom Wolf. Even if the county were to move to the “yellow” phase by summer, groups would still be restricted to 25 people or less. Brobst added that the borough could not operate the pool in such a manner.
Boroughs across the county have either chosen to delay pool openings or cancel them altogether.
Borough solicitor Steven Goudsouzian offered his advice to council.
“I think all of us would love to see the pool open,” he said. “But all of us acknowledge the fundamental dangers of having the pool open.”
He advised that council wait until June to see whether the situation changes. Any decision to open or close the pool this early would be “unwise.”
However, some members of council worried that waiting until June would “squeeze people for time.” Brobst acknowledged that opening the pool takes about two weeks, but there are some smaller tasks that can be done in preparation.
“Why could we not address this at the council meeting on the 21st?” asked Councilwoman Judy Kutzler. “If you push it off to June…that is really going to put pressure on borough employees.”
Council unanimously agreed and tabled their decision to May 21.
Also to be decided on May 21 is whether the borough should hire five additional public works employees as summer help.
Only five individuals applied for summer jobs. All of them have worked for public works previously.
“Normally we have a whole lot more [applicants],” said Brobst.
Social distancing, he added, makes some public works jobs difficult. In talking with the head of public works, he said, the borough would not want to exceed five additional people.
“[Public works] would not safely be able to handle that many [employees] in these conditions.”
The names of the five applicants will be brought to the May 21 meeting for a vote by council.
Brobst also added that all borough personnel are back at work, including office administration and public works employees. Construction of the pavilion at the public pool and construction of the community garden will resume.
Finally, Brobst addressed worry that the borough would see a decrease in income tax revenue. He said quarter one collection was on par with past years.
“People who pay their tax on time always pay on time,” he said.
He said the borough will have a better idea of the economic impact of COVID-19 following the second quarter. While he added that he is concerned, he said there are no numbers available yet to base any decisions off of.