City Council talks COVID-19, West 4th Street project

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Spencer City Council Chambers sign

Not everyone is staying away from playground equipment and basketball courts in Spencer.

Like other cities in Iowa, Spencer has closed its playground equipment, which includes basketball courts and the skate park, as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

During a special city council meeting on Monday, Ward 1 City Councilman Tom Nelson said he had received a message from a citizen who has seen groups of kids playing basketball games and sitting on swings at Deerfield Park.

“She’s asking if there’s anything that can be done or should be done to break those up,” Nelson said.

Normally kids playing games of basketball and using playground equipment in April would be perfectly fine – and expected – under normal circumstances.

Circumstances are nowhere near normal, though. In fact, a group of 10 or more kids playing on public basketball courts and playground equipment is in violation of an order from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds that prohibits social gatherings of 10 or more people.

“I think a bunch of kids playing basketball at a park is probably something that should be addressed,” Nelson said.

City Manager Amanda Mack said the enforcement of requirements set by Gov. Reynolds fall to local law enforcement, including the Spencer Police Department. 

“We can have them keep an eye out, look for things like that,” she said. “It’s virtually impossible to physically close the parks.”

Nelson shared with the rest of the council that he’s seen a lot of people in parks and on trails.

That is still allowed.

“I took a bike ride today and I hit the trails throughout most of town,” Nelson said. “And there were people all over the place. I think mostly family units walking together or couples. There were a few that were friends that were walking together that I recognized.”

The ban on gatherings is just one of many restrictions Reynolds has put in place to combat the new coronavirus and trying to flatten the curve to hopefully decrease the strain on the state’s health care system.

As of today, the Iowa Department of Public Health has reported 613 confirmed cases, including two in Clay County.

The city has put information out advising the public of basketball courts and playgrounds being closed. Signs have also been put up around equipment.

“We did the Facebook Live (video) on Friday, you know, letting people know that we don’t want you to use the park equipment,” Mack said. “We don’t have a way to appropriately sanitize that in a timely manner. At some point, people just have to do the right thing and we can only enforce it so much.”

Mack added that the governor has emphasized the importance of people staying active.

“The governor very much emphasized the need to get out and be healthy and active,” she said. “But she also talked about only going out when it’s essential. Don’t go to your friend’s house and don’t be doing things that aren’t related to getting groceries or going to a doctor’s appointment, things like that.”

The city has also opened the municipal golf course. Mack said people still need to keep groups small and maintain distance between separate groups.

“Even at the golf course, one to two people, and make sure you’re maintaining the appropriate distances and that you’re washing your hands a lot,” Mack said. 

DeLoss Construction part of 2020 West 4th Street underground improvement project

The council voted 6-0 to award part of the 2020 West Fourth Street underground improvement project to DeLoss Construction for $450,730.

The city will pay $340,000 of that bill.

That cost covers one section of the overall project. Spencer Municipal Utilities, which is also paying a portion of the costs, did not want to move forward with another section because the bid was over-budget.

DeLoss Construction was the lone bidder. The company’s bid for the entire project was $984,961, 123% of the project estimate.

The approved section of the project, or Section 1, involves mostly storm sewer improvements between Second Avenue West and First Avenue West.

Brian Schmidt with Kruse, Cate and Nelson told the council that a second section is not necessary at this time. That work included proposed water main improvements between Sixth Avenue West and the 10th Avenue West extension.

“The work that they were planning on doing is not critical to be completed prior to the overlay project next year,” Schmidt said.

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