Closure of Vale pool draws ire of some local residents

Some Vale residents want the city pool to be reopened because they believe the COVID-19 virus outbreak is a hoax. Vale City Manager Russ Kirkpatrick said the pool will remain closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 virus. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – The Vale City Pool is closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 virus and some residents aren’t happy about it.

Vale City Manager Russell Kirkpatrick said last week he fielded many calls from upset residents who believe the pool should be open and the COVID-19 virus outbreak is a hoax.

“We’ve gotten a lot of blowback,” said Kirkpatrick.

COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Current thought is the virus spreads for the most part person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Spread of the virus is more likely when people are in close contact with each other.

More than 1 million people tested positive for the virus in the U.S. last week and 93,000 died from the malady.

In late March, Gov. Kate Brown issued a stay home order and banned access to a broad range of businesses. She also closed all pools, skate parks and playgrounds.

Some restrictions in Malheur County were lifted two weeks ago under a phased reopening plan approved by the governor but access to public swimming pools remained banned.

Kirkpatrick said while he can understand the frustration of area residents, the Vale City Council “went through some very deep due diligence to make sure we were following CDC and our governor’s guidelines for swimming pools.”

“This isn’t a decision based on just the city of Vale and the city council. We have to go by what the governor is asking us to do,” said Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick said one day last week he received five phone calls from residents who wanted the pool open.

“I am sorry, but I can’t open it,” said Kirkpatrick. “In this phase of this pandemic we have to stay closed. It is the governor’s recommendation and people need to understand that.”

Kirkpatrick said the city budget for the pool for the 2019-2020 fiscal year ending June 30 was $83,000. Two seasonal, part-time employees manage the pool during the summer, he said. Up to 12 life guards are also employed at the pool.

As the only pool in Malheur County, Kirkpatrick said he understands the facility is popular. The pool, he said, usually opens May 1 and closes in mid-September.

“But this has nothing to do with politics. This isn’t political. This is a health pandemic. We have to take care of each other,” said Kirkpatrick.

Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said the state guidance on pools is clear.

“We are going to follow the rules and they are explicit in two different places where they say no pool,” said Poe.

Kirkpatrick said when pools are cleared to open, he could have the Vale facility open “in a couple of weeks.”

In Ontario, the popular splash pad at Lions Park is also closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 virus.

Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]


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