Hot Springs set to reopen next week

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The city of Ouray plans to reopen the Hot Springs Pool and fitness center early next week, more than three months after the facilities were shut down in the early stages of the COVID-i9 pandemic.

Acting City Administrator Melissa Drake told the Plaindealer on Wednesday she hopes to know by Friday whether the pool will reopen Monday, June 22, or Tuesday, June 23.

City officials had originally planned to open the pool on June 16 but couldn’t get everything ready in time. City Resources Director Rick Noll has been working with pool employees the last several weeks to prepare for reopening, including reviewing new cleaning and sanitizing protocols and creating a new entrance to the pool.

“It’s all about getting prepared,” Drake said. “We have staff that were furloughed for almost three months, and we’re trying to get everything put back together.”

The pool will reopen on a first-come, first-served basis for three two-hour sessions each day, with a maximum of 5o people allowed in at a time to comply with current state health orders and a one-hour break in between each session for cleaning.

Ouray County commissioners on Tuesday approved a variance request to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment seeking to allow the pool to admit up to 200 people at a time, or 75 percent capacity, whichever is less. The pool’s capacity is just under 800.

City leaders have yet to determine the exact hours the pool and fitness center will be open. They’re also considering making the first two-hour pool session open to season-pass holders only and requiring them to purchase day passes if they want to come soak during other hours of the day. It’s not clear when a decision about that will be made.

Drake said the three two-hour sessions are designed to allow as many people in as possible under current state guidelines. She said the pool’s reopening date is the most frequently-asked question the city is receiving now.

Whenever the pool reopens, customers will enter through a west-side gate near the snack shop. The lobby will be closed. A reopening plan developed by Noll calls for guests to stay in one soaking pool during their two-hour session rather than moving between soaking pools.

Mayor Pro Tem John Wood expressed concern during Monday’s City Council meeting that the city won’t be able to cover operational expenses and the debt service on the pool by reopening with limited capacity. There is no indication of when state health officials will rule on the county’s variance request — and no guarantee they will approve it.

“We have to make sure by opening it we aren’t creating more financial calamity for ourselves,” he said.

Councilor Ethan Funk said he wasn’t as concerned as Wood, noting pool revenue will be down this year no matter what because of the lagging economy. He said it’s a matter of determining whether the city loses more money by keeping the pool closed or reopening it with restricted capacity.

The Hot Springs Pool has been closed since March 16.

In other business from Monday’s meeting, the council unanimously approved a resolution encouraging people to wear face coverings in public places within the city. The Ridgway Town Council recently adopted a similar resolution for public places within Ridgway town limits.