Town of Hinton prepares for reopening

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

As the province slowly allows businesses to open and restrictions slacken, so is the Town of Hinton preparing to open facilities and bring back services to in-person operations.

The first stage of reopening the Government Centre happened on Thursday, June 18.

The centre operated on reduced hours between 9 am and 3 pm, and was open again on Tuesday and Thursday this week.

The Town stated that this staged reopening with reduced hours will be used as an observation and response measurement period for social distancing and cleaning parameters. 

Observations from the reopening of the Government Centre can then aid plans for other facilities like The West Fraser Guild and Infrastructure Services Building, the Town stated.

“The unexpected addition of a number of our facilities to phase 2 has the Town evaluating the plans which were in place as tasks like pool shutdown currently occurring must now be completed before opening,” said Nikiea Hope, Hinton’s human resources manager

Seventeen staff members have returned to work as part of Phase 2, but the completion of plans for accelerated facility openings will determine how many more members will be recalled in the coming weeks, said Hope.

Laura Howarth, Hinton director of community service, stated during the standing committee meeting on June 9 that annual pool shutdown work activities scheduled for September 2020 are taking place now and no regular fall shutdown will be required.

Before the pool can reopen, staff must return to regular levels and it will take three weeks for training and basin fill.

The town stated drop-in programs with phased-in usage and restrictions are to be expected, and lesson registration is expected to be available at the start of operations.

The Town currently does not have all head guards in place and the lifesaving society guidelines state that all head guards must be in place before the pool can reopen, according to Hope.

“We will need to hire and train these advanced roles. There will also be a posting for an aquatic guard, this position would not start until all of our existing staff is recalled, but we’re posting now to ensure we have full manpower available to prevent that causing further delay in opening the pool,” Hope said.

Interim CAO Emily Olsen said at the June 9 council meeting that the Town was not in a position to open the doors of the recreation centre that week and needed adequate time to prepare the facility.

At that same meeting, Howarth said public messaging for the rinks stated there would be no summer ice but that decision was made in anticipation of recreation centres not being considered for reopening until phase 3 of Alberta’s relaunch.

Howarth stated that staff would have to be brought back to regular capacity levels in order to build the ice.

Training, refrigeration start-up, and ice making takes a minimum three weeks before the rinks can reopen.

The town stated online that a phased-in usage with restrictions for both public use and ice user group programming is to be expected.

While the local Junior A Hockey team Hinton Timberwolves has cancelled their 2020/2021 season, discussions and planning to come back for the 2021/2022 will be undertaken in support to resume Junior A Hockey in Hinton.

Despite the early start to phase 2 of the provincial economic relaunch strategy, it isn’t mandatory for the Town to reopen its buildings and services immediately.

Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) programs involving group gatherings remain cancelled due to COVID-19.

According to the Town’s latest update, current staffing levels at FCSS remain reduced by 60 per cent and reduced service levels are being maintained with 40 per cent capacity staffing.

Four members of FCSS & Transportation will return to work as of June 24 and July 2, stated Hope, Hinton’s human resource manager.

Parks, Recreation and Culture staffing has increased from 25 per cent to 45 per cent and current reduced service levels are being maintained with 45 per cent capacity staffing.

Six Parks staff returned to work as of June 1, Hope stated.

Ongoing training was underway for the parks crew in the first weeks of June.

That crew will address the backlog and continue to deliver essential Parks services such as cemetery maintenance, grass cutting, garbage picking in green spaces, parks and trails maintenance, and dandelion growth mitigation, the Town stated.

As of June 15, two members of Recreation and Culture returned, four staff of the Library returned as of June 22, and one staff member of Development Services returned as of June 1, said Hope.

In addition, a reduction of hours was removed in the CAO Office area, Hope added.

Outhouses, public washroom facilities and porta potties in Town remain closed until other priority services are re-established and maintained.

Safety requirements will then be determined and implemented with opening of outhouses.

Other park services are determined as higher priority and reflect current staff capacity.

No anticipated re-opening date is available for the Athabasca Riverfront Park and the Spray Park.

All outdoor Tennis and Pickle Ball courts were anticipated to open on June 22, while two courts are available at Father Gerard Redmond Catholic School.