The Utility Service Board released a statement regarding the Frankfort Lagoons late Thursday in response to weeks of criticism and questioning from a significant number of Clinton County residents who have voiced their frustration at the closing of the lagoons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Frankfort Lagoons have been closed since April 7.
Comprised of five members – three appointed by the Mayor and two by the Frankfort City Council – the USB is currently Chairman Mike Kelley, Vice-Chairman Kent Brewer, Joe Root, Mike Reeder and Rick Gunyon.
“In the beginning, Governor’s Executive order declared, among many things, that people should stay at home, limited public gathering, and asked that certain types of places be closed to the public,” the statement read. “With this order in mind, the USB felt it was in the best interest of the public and more importantly of its employees, that the Lagoons be closed.”
The statement went on to read that a “significant factor” in the decision to close the lagoons is that employees of the utilities are responsible for the lagoons’ care, maintenance and trash removal.
“The USB also is thankful for and mindful of the many volunteers who have routinely assisted in cleaning up the trash and hazardous items left in the area,” read the statement. “Why would the USB want to put any of these employees’ or volunteers’ health in jeopardy? After considering the safety of the employees, the volunteers and the public, the decision was made to close the Lagoons.
“Recently, some of the Governor’s restrictions were amended to allow more activities, but there was also a provision for local authorities to utilize a slower process to reopen to the public,” it continued. “After considering the increase in the reported cases most recently in Clinton County, the USB decided to keep the Lagoons closed at this time, but to review the current data as it becomes available, and to reopen the Lagoons when employees, volunteers and the public face minimal health risk. The health and safety of the employees, volunteers, and the public are matters of great importance to the USB. The USB appreciates the public’s understanding and cooperation during this time of public health emergency. We will continue to analyze the situation as it arises and will make decisions as appropriate.”
A frequent comparison made by those who oppose the closure of the lagoons is that the Frankfort Commons Golf Course has continued to operate throughout the pandemic. Golfers continue to play the course with some social-distancing adjustments such as the availability of online check-in (park and play), implementing a one-golfer-per-cart rule (with a children under 16 exception), sanitizing golf carts, removal of sand rakes in bunkers, ball retrieval tools, etc. As of May 1, the pro shop is open but limited to 25 percent capacity. The golf course falls under the guidance of the Board of Public Works and Safety.
“Since the temporary closing of the Lagoons is a policy made by the (Utility Service) Board, and since the Lagoons fall under the umbrella of the utility infrastructure, the USB, not the Mayor, not the City Council, and not the Department of Natural Resources will provide the rationale for the decision and will continue to serve as the decision maker with regard to the Lagoons,” the USB wrote in its statement. “The Frankfort Lagoons were created years ago as the answer to sewage treatment issues created by a local industry. Their purpose was to collect and hold water used by that industry to be disposed of without processing the water through the entire sanitary sewage treatment process. After the industry closed, the infrastructure conveying the water to the Lagoons was incorporated into the storm water drainage system for a section of the city. The storm water and water supplied by electric powered wells are the main water sources for the Lagoons today. The Lagoons continue to be maintained and operated as a part of the utility infrastructure in the City.”
The Utility Service Board was created by the city council in the 1970s to oversee the Frankfort Water Works, Frankfort Light and Power, Wastewater Treatment Department, and Sewer Maintenance Department. More recently, the Fiber Optic Network was added to the USB’s responsibilities.