Canton officials to decide soon whether or not to open ice rink to public, groups
BY ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week
CANTON -- The village and town boards of Canton are hoping to make a decision by next week on whether or not the pavilion ice will be open this winter to the public, and to local skating and hockey groups.
The village board discussed the issue at their meeting Monday, Sept. 21.The Canton recreation committee, a shared services committee of village trustees Carol Pynchon and Beth Bullock Larabee and town council members Tim Danehy and Karin Blackburn, are recommending the two municipalities open the pavilion for skating this coming season.
"We've thought a lot about this. We've talked a lot about this. There has been great discussion. The various stakeholders at the recreation pavilion have been very involved in conversations about the safety and the wisdom and the prudence of opening the pavilion," said Pynchon.
"With safety protocols in place by both the recreation department and the stakeholder groups we felt we could go ahead with [reopening]," Pynchon said.
"From my perspective it is a decision I have a lot of ambivalence about. I have a lot of ambivalence about a lot of things happening during the time of COVID. It's scary. There are big steps that need to be taken in a time of uncertainty," said Pynchon.
"(The stakeholders) have informed us about what their plans need to be by state and national organizations that they are a part of. They're taking this really seriously. I think kids are really eager to be able to utilize the facility," said Larrabee. "Kids and parents are willing to follow rules so they can utilize and make things work."
Larrabee said she was confident in parents and children's ability to follow safety protocols for use of the pavilion.
"It was obviously not an easy decision," said Danehy. "We need to consider the impacts of what we do. If we delay or decide not to proceed with any kind of ice season, there is going to be an impact on that. And the impact is going to be that some of the participants in these programs are going to choose to go play in neighboring communities."
"But that adds a degree of additional risk to us as a community, to have that crossover to be taking place," Danehy said.
Danehy said there is a chance that the village and town start making ice in preparation for an open pavilion this season, and the public health situation changes, forcing the municipalities to close up. "But I would rather be optimistic here. I'm confident we can pull it off, that our stakeholders can pull it off," Danehy said.
"It's a lot of work but I'm confident we can pull it off. We just need to be thoughtful and purposeful in all that we do," said Blackburn. "We need to keep the communities best interest at hand."
Village trustee Anna Sorensen said she recognizes that the committee had developed safety protocols for the pavilion's use and that other communities have been successful in opening similar facilities. "I do have some concerns," Sorensen said.
"Your plan suggested that beginning with the two (skating) clubs would be a good place to start and then we could sort of ramp it up from there and see if public skating and other opportunities would be appropriate. I guess I'm curious to know if, even if we weren't to open beyond the clubs that come with plans and all of that, would we be covering our costs. Because I think it's a very real possibility we might not," Sorensen said.
"In terms of the safety and logistics category, would we close if the schools close?" she asked. "I'm wondering about ventilation."
Sorensen said she wanted to know if the pavilions air system meets the current requirements for gyms. She said she also wanted to know if the committee has any recommendations from county Public Health about reopening.
Mayor Mike Dalton said the village has reached out to Public Health but hasn't received any additional guidance on the issue. He added that the pavilion's fan system will change over the air in the building within 6 minutes.
Another wrinkle in the discussion is that the Canton Recreation Department currently lacks a director following the departure of former director Jim Putman last month.
Christina Martin of Canton Figure Skating who attended the meeting said the lack of a director shouldn't impact reopening and that there were volunteers available to help reopen. She also suggested the committee check with other neighboring communities to see what their policies on school closure might be.
"We're in unprecedented times that we are trying to work through. None of us want our kids getting sick. So we've got protocols in place. With the utmost caution to do what's right for our kids, is obviously our priority," said Kevin Logan of Canton Minor Hockey, who also attended the meeting. "We are anxious to get on the ice but we do want to do it in a safe way."
Village Trustee Klaus Proemm urged caution with reopening plans.
"We're just taking a big risk. I'm certainly open to further discussion and want to see some of the questions answered that Anna and Carol brought up," said Proemm. "We just have to be real damn careful here. In the next couple months we are going to learn a lot about what is going to happen. This could get a lot worse or this could not get a lot worse."
Proemm suggested putting off reopening until January. During discussion, Larrabee advised against putting off making a decision on reopening until January because it will impact 400 children and parents who will decide to go elsewhere before then. She urged the boards to decide as early as sometime next week.
Blackburn added that parents who are truly worried about COVID-19 will opt to stay home instead of going to the pavilion to skate regardless of a reopening date or not.
Danehy pointed out that making ice will take several weeks giving the municipalities time to further consider the ongoing public health situation.
The town board is expected to discuss the issue at a special meeting this Thursday, Sept. 24.