Nederland City Council pauses on more major reopenings

Published 12:27 am Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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NEDERLAND — The Nederland City Council is waiting before deciding if a more significant reopening of local amenities is warranted.

City Hall and the Marion & Ed Hughes Public Library are operating under limited hours and will stay that way for at least two more weeks following discussion on the issue.

City council members did unanimously vote Monday to extend city hall’s hours of public access to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., which are now in effect.

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The library remains open from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Curbside service is available throughout the day.

Following its limited reopening Sept. 18, the library is averaging a little more than 30 visitors a day, and library officials are reporting no issues with the mandate to limit total patrons in the building at one time to 10.

“City Hall, frankly, the utilization of the building has been minimal,” City Manager Chris Duque told Council members. “I think word of mouth hasn’t really spread. It’s been much lower than we anticipated. People are continuing to use the drive through.”

Duque said the city is receiving inquiries about reopening the recreation center, with many wanting to play basketball or pool, while others are requesting to rent the building.

Staffing the facility on Avenue H is also a major problem.

“We utilize a number of part-time rec attendants to cover the hours of operation,” Duque said. “Right now, I believe we have two rec attendants and one of them is on their way out. We get a core group like freshman year of college and they will go to their senior year or when they start getting fulltime jobs and internships. So this past group is again aging out.

“COVID-19 didn’t help, because we lost all that work time at the pool, and a lot of these kids work both. We lost a lot of them because we have had COVID-19 since March.”

Duque expressed reservations with opening the recreation center for private gatherings, citing recommendations from the state and governor about limiting gatherings to 10 or less from the same family group.

“When you have a party rental for a baby shower or bridal shower, you are going to bring groups together,” he said. “Social distancing goes out the window.”

Duque said a recommendation on more reopenings and guidelines would be presented to the city council when the board meets again, which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Oct. 12.

The City Council learned Monday six new COVID-19 cases for Nederland residents were confirmed over the weekend, raising the city’s total to 408.

“We’re averaging 3.7 new positives over a two-week period, which is not much greater than two weeks ago,” Duque said. “Two weeks ago, when you voted to open things, we were at 2.8 a day.”