By PJ Ferguson

The Washington County beaches at Huletts Landing and Lake Lauderdale will open Memorial Day weekend at 50 percent staffing.

After the government operation committee voted 4-3 on Tuesday to close the beaches for the summer by fencing them off and not allowing reservations of the pavilion in Huletts, the board of supervisors voted to table that resolution until next month.

As a result, the beaches will be open on weekends until July 4, when they open for daily use.

Several supervisors fought for the beaches remaining open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’re taking away from the kids,” said Whitehall supervisor John Rozell, arguing that the beaches could operate with a “skeleton crew.”

Rozell also pushed back against county administrator Chris Debolt’s claim that by not staffing the beaches, the county would save $90,000.

Whitehall supervisor John Rozell

“There will definitely be vandalism,” said Rozell, arguing that the destruction of property would lower the total savings.

Dresden supervisor Paul Ferguson also advocated for keeping the county beaches open.

“It would be crazy to shut the beaches down now. It is going to be 80 degrees today,” said Ferguson on Friday, “There’ll be a lot of people upset they can’t just go to the beach. Tax dollars have already been put there to have the beaches open.”

Other supervisors believed that the beaches could remain open without staff with a “swim at your own risk” policy.

Dresden supervisor Paul Ferguson

“It would accomplish saving the money and allowing use of the parks,” said Hebron supervisor Brian Campbell, who advocated that the issue comes back to the government ops committee for further discussion.

Hartford supervisor Dana Haff fought against the motion to table the discussion as he feared opening the beaches and then later closing them would be a “fait accompli.”

“If we open the park staff now, there is no way in heck we’re going to then close them once they are open,” said Haff, “$90,000 savings is significant, we’re talking about reduction in CHIPS funding and everything else, but as soon as we come to the parks we put a different hat on and we completely ignore the financial crisis we have.”

Hartford supervisor Dana Haff

A majority of the board voted to table the discussion with Haff, Granville supervisor Matt Hicks and White Creek supervisor James Griffith voting no.

Later on in the meeting, Hicks asked several questions regarding how the county would staff and operate the beaches in accordance with the governor’s social distancing protocol and other demands mandated by his executive order.

A committee meeting was not scheduled as of yet; for now, the issue is to be revisited at the next supervisors board meeting on Friday, June 19.

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