(Posted on May 20, 2020)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Baseball and softball leagues are a go. But what about the municipal pool and July 4th festivities?
West Jefferson village council members discussed all three during their regularly scheduled meeting held virtually on May 18.
Mayor Ray Martin reported that West Jefferson’s youth baseball and softball leagues and adult softball leagues can begin practices and play on May 26, as allowed by Gov. Mike DeWine’s Responsible RestartOhio plan. But he cautioned that play will continue only as long as coaches, players, and spectators adhere to the safety protocols outlined in the governor’s plan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Coaches have to wear masks all the time, players have to wear them when they’re not on the field, and everyone has to practice social distancing,” Martin said, listing some of the guidelines.
He noted that Marci Darlington, parks and recreation director, and John Mitchell, public service director, are meeting with one representative each from the three baseball/softball organizations to go over the protocols.
The governor’s guidelines can be found under “Responsible RestartOhio” at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/. Look for the “Sports and Sports Leagues” heading under “Sector Specific Operating Requirements.”
As of the May 18 council meeting, village leaders had not made a decision regarding opening the municipal pool.
DeWine’s plan allows municipalities to open public pools, if they so choose, starting May 26. The governor’s Outdoor Recreation Advisory Group put together a detailed list of guidelines and best practices for such facilities to follow. The list covers everything from sanitation to social distancing.
Among the requirements is that pools implement a reduced maximum capacity that allows six feet between users. Staff, patrons, and swimmers must stay at least six feet apart from those they don’t live with, both in and out of the water. Patrons must wear masks or face coverings when on the pool deck, entering buildings, or interacting near other pool guests. Masks should be removed prior to swimming because wet masks can cause difficulty breathing.
Darlington said she and pool staff members, along with other village leaders, are looking through the long list of required procedural changes. Neither she nor Martin could say when the decision would be made whether to open the pool this season.
The governor’s guidelines for public pools can be found under “Responsible RestartOhio” at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/. Look for the “Primary Sectors” heading under “Sector Specific Operating Requirements.”
Each year, the West Jefferson July 4th Streetfest committee, a group of area residents, puts on a three-day festival to celebrate Independence Day. The event typically includes a parade, entertainment, rides, concessions, and fireworks.
Bob Harper, a member of the committee, said no decision has been made on whether the festival will take place this year.
“We likely will decide sometime in June. We’re holding off as long as we can to see how things play out. We’ll see what the governor does and, based on that, we will decide what we’re going to do,” Harper said. “We’re doing our very best to at least have fireworks.”
Committee members have discussed options regarding the fireworks with village leaders, township leaders, and the Madison County health commissioner.
At the May 18 village council meeting, Martin said one possibility is a “stay-at-home” fireworks. The idea is to shoot off the fireworks from a location that would make them visible to as many homes in West Jefferson as possible. People would watch them from their homes instead of congregating in a large mass.
A possible location for such a scenario is Converse Park, he said, which sits on higher ground in the middle of the village. It’s also easier to block off to prevent people from congregating as compared to Garrette Park, where people traditionally gather to watch the fireworks display, he added.
“I just think that’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said Mike Conway, council member. “I think we will have a traffic nightmare with people trying to see it.”
Conway is concerned that people from communities who have cancelled their fireworks will flock to West Jefferson. If such a plan were to move forward, he suggested blocking off roads to help the police department with traffic control.
“Once the plan irons out, I think you will be a little more at ease,” Martin told Conway.
No decision has been made on whether the fireworks will happen. All parties involved will continue to discuss possibilities and logistics.
“We want it to happen, but it must be in a safe manner,” Martin said.