The City of Kodiak unveiled mitigation plans for reopening public buildings and programs in six departments at this week’s work session, but not all departments will fully reopen.
Among those departments close to fully reopening to the public would be City Hall, Parks and Recreation and Public Works, with several safety precautions in place, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Parks and Rec is looking to reopen two of its popular buildings this Friday: the Teen Center and the pool. The Teen Center may have the easiest time reopening, as its use typically decreases in the summer as outdoor programs are increased.
City Manager Mike Tvenge: “So the plan is to reopen the Teen Center, and I understand that during the summer months it’s at about 20% capacity of what the winter months are. So a lot fewer participants, more outdoor activities. Therefore, less indoor activities at the Teen Center.”
Parks and Rec has also developed a thorough screening tool for swimming pool patrons.
“No congregating on the deck of the pool. Occupancy of the pool is limited to 50 percent or 50 participants in the water. They will be screening people when they come in the door, asking some simple questions about if they’re ill or if they’ve had a fever. They’ll be required to come dressed with their suit on so there’s less time in the locker room area, avoiding congregation, of course. They’re going to clean the facility after people use it. Their protocols are pretty well established.”
The Teen Center and pool are scheduled to reopen this Friday, and Parks and Rec summer programs will start June 15.
City departments, including public works, however, are housed in the borough building, and the Kodiak Island Borough has yet to reopen their facilities, and have not announced when they will reopen. In the meantime, members of the public looking to pay a bill or request information will be able to enter only the main front door.
Tvenge said, “There’s a reception desk there. They can screen people there. There’s drop boxes for payments, and if there’s any forms that need to go to us, we will be able to collect them from the front or have them walked back to our departments. We’d like to keep the two hallway doors downstairs locked to the public.”
Other city departments have said they are not ready to fully reopen.
Kodiak Police and Kodiak Fire Departments will still remain closed to the public, but both buildings have a receptionist desk to serve any patrons.
And the Kodiak Public Library building will continue to remain closed to the public for the next two weeks, while they continue their curbside and call-in services for patrons requesting library materials, free wifi in the parking lot, and summer outdoor programs. Library staff returned to the library to work earlier this week, but they are not comfortable allowing the public back in just yet.
Tvenge again: “They’re not comfortable to open up to the public because this is probably one our biggest public buildings. I think it’s 20-25% of the occupancy is 85 people, which is way too many people in the building. They’d like to have it limited down to 15 people at one time, if possible, and have some hour restrictions.”
Kodiakans can anticipate this soft reopening of the library on June 15.
Putting these safety measures into effect is an additional financial burden that the City will incur, as buildings will need minor upgrades such as plastic screens and receptionist tables, and additional staff time to screen patrons.
Councilperson John Whiddon acknowledged this cost.
“Just a cost question, and it looks like with the pool that the cost with this additional mitigation is pretty significant. Are we able to track that and bill that against COVID-related funds?
Tvenge: “True, yes, we will be tracking and allocating toward the CARES act if we decide to use that funding . I think everyone recognizes the added costs to provide these safety measures.”
Tvenge plans to buy supplies in bulk for all departments to save money.
Some councilmembers expressed concerns over areas within the city limits that don’t have clear mitigation plans.
Councilmember Charlie Davidson asked, “How are we montoring those fishing boats coming in with crew members? And is it lawful that if we can have these temperature takers, where you go in to the ear and can have this immediate (reading) to see if they have a fever. Are we doing anything like that, or could we, if not?”
Tvenge responded: “We’re not taking temperatures. We have a harbor use agreement that people are filling out with information in there that they agree to comply with.”
Tvenge responded about self-policing and self-quarantining, and that it’s ultimately the responsibility of the captain.
Councilmember Whiddon added: “I talked to a couple of fisherman who are actually quarantining crews on the boats. They are taking them groceries every few days. Guys are staying on the boats. They are conforming as much as possible. They are taking it seriously, especially those going out to the bay on a tender, they don’t want to take a chance of getting sick and losing their tender job.”
But the specter of a large coronavirus breakout continues to concern the city as it plans to reopen.
Mayor Pat Branson asked, “What happens if we have an outbreak of cases here? What happens with facilities?”
Tvenge answered,”That’s a question that’s asked quite often. We’ll see where the cases are. If they’re in Kodiak in a specific area that we can isolate, that’s a mitigation measure, by isolating those infected people. If it’s more scattered and widespread, and we don’t know the source of it, I anticipate a retraction of the opening.”