COVID-19 re-opening subject of city special meeting

The city’s COVID-19 re-opening plan was the subject of a special meeting of city council Thursday evening.

The meeting covered a lot of ground on the issue of re-opening of facilities, with the goal of meeting the Re-Open Saskatchewan guidelines and restrictions. The province is currently in the middle of Phase Four of re-opening, with such leisure facilities such as indoor pools and rinks still to be opened.

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But there are challenges. Among the ones identified by City Manager Randy Patrick at the meeting is the loss of revenue by operating facilities due to less capacity than previously. A desire was expressed to lessen the hit to the taxpayers as much as possible.

Discussion around leisure services made up the bulk of the meeting. Director of Leisure Services Cheryl DeNeire walked the councillors through a list of recommendations that were ultimately approved by council at the meeting. As outlined in the report prepared for council, these are as follows:

Recommendation 1:  Increase to rental rates

To make sure patrons are protected from the COVID-19 virus, and to ensure the provincial guidelines on contact tracing, cleaning/disinfecting, and distancing requirements are met, council has opted for an eight per cent increase to rental rates not already locked in by contract. This will not apply to outdoor sports activity and associations, memberships or day-use rates. The term is until COVID-19 restrictions for cleaning and sanitation are relaxed or greatly reduced.

Recommendation 2: Galleries

Council has decided that Chapel Gallery will be closed for at least the remainder of 2020. The plan is for local artist exhibits in the Chapel Gallery to be housed in the lower area of the Allen Sapp Gallery and for Chapel Gallery to still be available for rentals and special events.

The intention is for Allen Sapp Gallery to open during the week of July 13 as part of Phase 4.2 part 1 of Re-Open Saskatchewan, though it is possible there could be a soft-opening before then. Hours will be consistent with previous summers, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Those renting the facility must maintain proper contact tracing information on all patrons visiting; those unwilling to provide contact tracing information will not be allowed in.

Recommendation 3: Co-op Aquatic Centre

Council has agreed with administration that the Co-op Aquatic Centre re-open with a minimum gathering level of 75 patrons, not before Aug. 1. There will be reduced operational hours to five days a week, Wednesday – Sunday, with a review of operational hours coming in the fall.

The plan is to limit activity to public and lane swims with a review in the fall, and to prohibit the use of the showers and lockers until an effective method is found to appropriately clean the lockers. Other aspects of the re-opening including providing patrons with memberships with a booking privilege, to have no user rate discount due to COVID-19 restrictions, and that renters maintain proper contact tracing information on all patrons visiting the facility. Once again, those not willing to provide contact tracing information will not be allowed to enter.

Facility recommendation 4:  NATIONSWest Field House

The plan is to re-open as restrictions allow with a gathering level of 75 patrons, and not prior to mid-September. Operational hours are again reduced to Wednesday to Sunday with a review of operational hours to happen in late fall. The middle lane of the track will be closed to adhere to two-metre distancing requirements. Again, the plan is to close the showers and lockers to meet COVID-19 cleaning/disinfecting restrictions. There will be no user discount, and renters must maintain proper contact tracing information on all patrons. Those not willing to provide contact tracing information will not be allowed in.

Recommendation 5: Summer Playground Program

The free Summer Playground Program is suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions and overall program costs.

Recommendation 6: Don Ross Arena

The Don Ross Arena is re-opening with a minimum booking level of 50 per cent of 2019 booking levels and not prior to October. Regular operational hours are Monday to Friday, 4 pm to midnight, Saturday/Sunday 8 am-midnight. Again, the showers are being closed, there will be no user rate discount and contact tracing must be maintained for all renters.

Recommendation 7: The Civic Centre

The Civic Centre is to be re-opened as provincial restrictions allow with a minimum booking level of 50 per cent of 2019 booking levels, with the opening and not prior to August 15.

Regular operational hours are daily from 8 a.m. to midnight; showers are again closed, there is no user rate discount, and proper contact tracing information must be maintained. These rules are being required for all the users of the facility including the SJHL Battlefords North Stars.

Council agreed to these above items at the meeting Thursday.

In addition, council agreed to provide a $27,000 grant to Boys and Girls Clubs of the Battlefords for two additional summer camps in the city for kids 5-14 years of age.

Council also heard details from city Director of Finance Steve Brown on an interest assistance program for 2020 property tax for commercial properties. According to a city memo from Brown, this would provide commercial properties within city limits some financial assistance regarding: 2020 property taxes.

According to Brown’s memo: “By creating a program that subsidizes the interest on a loan to pay their property taxes, it allows for the payment risk to be transferred to the bank, gives the business more time to pay the property taxes and the City retains its penalty charges for the remaining properties.” The anticipated launch for this program will be the start of August, 2020. 


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