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Molalla Aquatic Center open during extreme risk, appreciates patience amid adjustments.

COURTESY PHOTO: MAC - The Molalla Aquatic Center continues to offer reservations even during the county's 'extreme risk' week.

The Molalla Aquatic Center endured extended closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic until reopening in March 2021. Now, the pool remains open by reservation, and the pool staff is working to keep patrons safe.

Even through Clackamas County's "extreme risk" week, April 30 to May 6, Aquatic Director Melissa Georgesen said leaders opted to keep the center open, limiting occupancy to just six people at a given time, as required according to state restrictions.

COVID-19 adjustments

But even though the pool is open, it looks different than before. The center is offering lap swims by reservation only, and swimmers must keep physical distance from others in the pool. Family swims are available when the county is not in extreme risk. During family swim time, no child can be without their parent or guardian, and all visitors must be swimming.

"We have to continue to work together to get our kids swimming," Georgesen said.

COURTESY PHOTO: MAC - Melissa GeorgesenShowers are open on a limited basis, but patrons should not expect to take more than 10 minutes to rinse and change, Georgesen said.

The changes all come with the COVID-19 crisis, and the pool must abide by associated restrictions.

"This community has been amazing in exercising patience, tolerance and understanding," Georgesen said. "I know a lot of people do not agree with the guidance or what we are doing. I appreciate hearing from everyone and seeing if there is room for compromise. As a swimming pool, we get a license to operate directly from the Health Department of Clackamas County and the state of Oregon. Without that license, we would not be covered by our insurance if something were to happen to a staff member or a swimmer. That is a liability and risk we are not willing to leave ourselves open to. Please keep that in mind when you feel frustrated about the new rules."

The pool staff too are eager to return to some of the pre-COVID activities the pool has not been able to offer, such as swimming lessons and birthday parties.

"We haven't had a birthday party since early March of 2020, and my heart aches for the kids who are missing celebrating again this spring," Georgesen said.

Extended cleaning practices

In addition to limiting occupancy and ensuring physical distance between swimmers, pool staff have also been keeping swimmers safe through extensive cleaning practices.

"A lot of people think the pool is full of chlorine; so, we are safe," Georgesen said. "While that does help, there are still a lot of spaces and surfaces we have to keep track of: the locker rooms, the lobby and the pool deck. Not to mention, we clean everything you touch — door handles, toilet stall knobs, all of it."

For all of this hard work, Georgesen offered a shout-out to her staff.

"Without these hard workers, the pool would not be able to be open or run as smoothly as it does," Georgesen said. "They stuck around through two layoffs and a lot of uncertainty. Please know they have school, other jobs and family commitments. They are doing their absolute best at our pool. Thank you to our amazing and wonderful workers and volunteers."

Georgesen also raised the level of chlorine in the pool, and now the aquatic district board has approved a new project to disinfect even further — the installation of ultraviolet light.

"UV kills even more than chlorine, and with the two working together, our pool will sparkle even more," Georgesen said.

Pool upgrades

The UV installation comes after a long string of improvements to the center amid the closures. Georgesen replaced outdated countertops and sinks and upgraded to touchless toilets and sinks in the locker rooms. She also replaced drinking fountains with bottle fill stations. Georgesen said it's important for swimmers to bring their own water bottles right now as the pool is not allowed to offer concessions.

Georgesen applied for and received a CARES Act grant for the district and was reimbursed for most of these expenses.

PMG FILE PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - The Molalla Aquatic Center.

Georgesen also installed a new gutter system and tile around the pool, purchased a new chair lift for individuals who need assistance to get into the water and made upgrades to the community room.

"My goal is to have the facility looking brand new, and not like it is 20 years old," Georgesen said.

The center is also seeing improvements that will save money, such as pool covers to cut down on the cost of natural gas to heat the pool. SR Smith in Canby fabricated and delivered the covers, which were installed in April.

The next aquatic district budget and board meeting takes place at the end of May, and the public is welcome to attend.

Kristen Wohlers
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