Following lengthy discussion at a special meeting Tuesday evening, the Akeley City Council approved a plan to open the city campground June 1 to everyone with reservations.
Everyone using the campground, including visitors, will be required to sign a waiver approved by the city attorney releasing the city from all legal liability if they contact the COVID-19 virus.
“If there would happen to be an outbreak at the park, they’re going to want to follow that trail,” council member Billy Krotzer said.
“We need to know everyone who has been in there for tracking including visitors,” Mayor Brian Hitchcock said.
The maximum size is 10 people per group. Signs with regulations will be posted at the campground and on the city website.
While 50 feet from the center of one campground to the center of the next is recommended in Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ best practices guidelines, it is not required.
“These guidelines are not a law,” City Clerk Kristi Kath said.
“Some of these people might cancel anyway and decide to stay home,” Krotzer said.
Paula and Curt Dormanen are the campground managers.
“We’re looking to do whatever it takes to keep the campground going and help out,” Curt said. “We’re not too worried about cleaning bathrooms. We normally clean them four times a day, and I thought we could put wipes outside the door to clean the handle before they go in and bleach spray inside so they can clean inside after they are done.”
Wosika said the Dormanens should follow guidelines to stay safe while cleaning. Hitchcock said, since they are independent contractors, they will need to provide their own personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves. The city will provide the cleaning products for them to use. The city will also install a sneeze guard in the office and there will be a limit of one camper in the office at a time.
“I just worry, if we open up the whole campground, what if someone comes up who is sick?” Wosika said during the discussion. “It’s a good way to spread it.”
Council member Dan Riggs said it is no different at the campground than other tourists from outside the area come to visit.
Beach and city hall also open
The beach is open, with the swim raft ready for weekend use. Those using the beach need to follow social distancing rules.
The playground by the beach will remain closed, following state guidelines.Bathrooms at the beach are cleaned by park managers.
City hall will be open to the public again, beginning June 1.
“We have installed a sneeze guard at the front desk and are following the guidelines,” Kath said. “We would clean high-touch surfaces hourly.”
The council decided seniors will be responsible for the decision of using the senior center portion of the facility for their coffee group and exercise activities following state guidelines and with a maximum of 10 people. They will also be responsible for meeting sanitization guidelines for COVID-19 preparedness. June 1 is the soonest this could begin.
“Obviously, they can’t have their pancake breakfasts or things like that,” Hitchcock said.
“Maybe they will decide not to do anything because they are older community members,” Wosika added.
Muni adding outdoor seating
There will also be changes at the municipal liquor store. The council approved liquor store manager Lacey Hitchcock’s request to set up an outdoor patio.
Outdoor seating will begin June 1 and reservations are required, either by phone or in person.
“We have to track everyone, so if there is an outbreak they will know who to contact,” she said.
The council approved using the best location approved by insurance with COVID-19 protocols in place for outdoor seating with canopies and tables and a maximum capacity of 50.
While looking into the options of a deck or cement patio for the liquor store, the council recommended using a nearby street or the parking lot to start. Pizza and appetizers will be available.
Hours will be adjusted, as needed, based on customer response.
“People are begging to get out,” Krotzer said. “I love the idea. At least it will be something people can use now and see whether it’s viable for the rest of the summer. It will be nice to have something easily visible off the muni for the tourists coming to town because that is where we make a lot of our money.”
Before deciding on this option, the council discussed having outdoor seating at Paul’s Patio, but having it closer to the liquor store was preferred because of staffing issues.
They are also considering having E-tabs outside to make money for both the fire department and the muni.