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By PJ Ferguson

The Washington County beaches will remain closed until June 13, per recommendation of buildings and grounds superintendent Matt Jones.

“As a resident I’d like to see them open, but as an operator this is what I have to suggest,” said Jones during Wednesday’s government operations committee meeting.

Jones expressed concerns over being able to comply with state guidelines on operating a beach and felt that he could have everything ready to go for the beaches to open on June 13.

The beach at Huletts Landing.

Some of these guidelines include mandated water testing by the department of public health.

Additionally, because of COVID-19 preventing the enrollment of lifeguard and CPR certifications, Jones is seeking extensions for his staff.

Historically, the beaches open on Memorial Day Weekend until the end of June on weekends only before being operational seven days a week but the committee voted to push back the opening date this year per Jones’ recommendation.

The gates to both beaches at Huletts Landing and Lake Lauderdale will be closed with increased sheriff patrols to monitor activity.

When the beaches do open, they will be limited to 50 percent capacity and the use of the pavilions and playgrounds will not be permitted, as mandated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Initially, several supervisors hoped to keep the gates open, provide porta potties, and implement a swim-at-your-own-risk policy until the new opening date, but county attorney Roger Wickes advised against that solution.

Dresden supervisor Paul Ferguson urged that the gate at Huletts remain open so people could have access to launch their kayaks from the dock, but as Wickes explained, the county holds a different liability if the gates are closed rather than open, treating people as “trespassers” rather than “invitees.”

Hartford supervisor Dana Haff remained fixated on the savings portion that not staffing the beaches this summer would save the county about $90,000.

Hartford supervisor Dana Haff

“We’re talking about an austerity budget yet have expenses for recreation,” said Haff.

But White Creek supervisor James Griffith said he believed that focusing on saving .1% of the county’s total budget was not worth the time.

Several supervisors agreed with Griffith.

“We’re going to have a certain larger group than ever that can afford nothing,” said Hebron supervisor Brian Campbell. “These people are going to need an outlet, some won’t even have a job to return to.” .

Haff responded by requesting that the towns of Dresden and Jackson “pony up money” to keep the expenses of the beaches going.

The revenue earned from the beaches is far under what expenses are made to keep them open. County treasurer Al Nolette said last year that the county spent about $39,000 to operate Huletts and $36,000 for Lake Lauderdale. For Lake Lauderdale, the revenue from pavilion rentals and parking totaled roughly $17,000. Huletts does not charge to park, therefore rakes in significantly less with its only source of revenue stemming from the pavilion.

However, most supervisors believe that the park is an asset to their communities and constituents.

Whitehall supervisor John Rozell

“Yes it’s an expense,” acknowledged Whitehall supervisor John Rozell, “but what the county’s going to gain is more well than worth it.”

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