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Following the recent deputation by Dave Shemilt, spokesperson for the 'New Pool Group' to Town Council on Monday, January 26 regarding Aquatics in the community, several questions were asked by Councilors.
Councilor Dave Myette said that the costs would be borne by all ratepayers across Saugeen Shores. "The decision to be made must be well thought out and contemplated for the most efficient use of taxpayers' money. Therefore, the ratepayers have to have a say as it will be a significant cost over a significant period of time. Therefore, how will the vast majority of ratepayers have a say?"
Shemilt said that the original Monteith Brown study said that they were quite clear that consultations were carried out and that people would like to see a multi-functional pool with a variety of choices including a therapy based pool. "I think I am confident that there has been sufficient public consultation to decide whether to renovate or build. At that point, we can go back to the public and say, if we build, these are the costs and it's pretty simple to do. If we renovate, the costs would be approximately $5million and, If we build there would be some synergies of operating costs, so the costs would be somewhere in the $12 - $15million range. What the people have really described is a 'regional recreational centre'. The information is in those studies and we can create a plan."
Shemilt went on to say that, "Typically, in a community, 25 per cent (25%) of capacity would be used in a swimming pool and, with a walking track, that percentage would go up. I would not spend any more money at this point on more studies."
Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber
"One of the challenges since the process began is that studies have been thoughtful and thorough but, only 25% of a community might use a pool. "In the Monteith Brown study, everything was taken into account and whatever is built, whatever is in there, it will operate at less than 25% of capacity. However, it would be millions of dollars to build and, with a lack of infrastructure grant opportunities, it would have to be funded over a very long period of time, possibly 15 to 20 years. We would also have to look at enhancement of operating expenses and it would be over $1M annually for 15 to 20 years to deal with the capital expenditures against the operating capacity and expenses for a facility, at best, functioning at less than 25% of its capacity.
That's what I have to wrestle with as a Councilor. That's a significant addition to every single ratepayer's tax bill for 15 to 20 years for less than 25% of the building to be used. So I appreciate everything that's been going on and the diligent job of looking at use and programming but, in the end, we have to come back to the fact we have received a lot of information that sets out this and that, but it doesn't matter what we build, we have issues with capacity and the percentage of the building that will be used and operating expenses over capital.
While I am appreciative of the motion that is coming forward, I think we have spent a lot of years on this and Council has yet to come to a decision. I applaud the Deputy Mayor and Councilor Rich for bringing the issue to the table and putting a date on it for some kind of decision but I am not capable at the moment of saying that I am supportive of another new build because I am not sure the taxpayers can handle the expense over 15 to 20 years. I welcome the idea we should be doing something and this is probably the year to do something and, in August, it will give us time to decide for the coming budget year.
Even if we do that, we still have an aging facility that we have to do something with this year. If it [Centennial Pool] breaks down, we are still years out from any new build and we would run the risk of no pool in the community for a number of years. So we have to do something to maintain the existing service until we get to that.
I think the motion before us tonight puts things in motion but I am struggling with use, operating expenses, capital expenses and that it will affect every single tax payer for a significant amount of money for a long period of time and it's not a decision that should be made lightly. I am hopeful that this year, this Council will make a decision to set some solution in motion.
Councilor Neil Menage
"We've been accused in the past of, perhaps, not communicating well when stating our point of view. Therefore, I am asking the Director of Community Services, is there a health and safety issue with the current pool that tells us we should be shutting that facility down?"
[Director Jayne Jagelewski said that pool is inspected monthly through Public Health and we have reports on each inspection and have not had a failing grade to date.]
"When I read your (Shemilt) request here, I see recommendations for an aquatic facility, a regional recreation centre or a swimming pool. I realize over time, we have had multiple studies that have gone the full gamut and I think I heard you say that rehabilitating the existing pool is no longer the option for the community that most uses it?"
[Shemilt replied that in studies rehabilitating the existing facility is the less desirable option. When we first started the discussion, the study said that it was more a recreation facility with a pool as the hub.]
"I think this is an integral part of our community and nothing short of saying, Yes to replace the facility is what I would ask my peers. I don't think Council has said yes yet so I'm not sure the motion that will be on the floor is going to be able to get us to Yes. Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber said that she hopes this year we can at least have an answer, yes or no, and I would be looking forward to that.
There is more pressure on space that an aquatic facility. We have other departments that need space and there are no current grants toward a swimming pool but I hope that this year we say yes. That this community deserves an aquatic type facility, a new one, and that we will find a way to fund it and locate it. Funding and location have not yet been determined"
Councilor John Rich
One thing I would like to speak to is we are a community that is growing and is vibrant and is attractive to those who want to move here and increasing the amount of investment that is coming here. We are trying to get retirees to come to this community and this is an integral part of that. If you want to be a community on the rise or a community in decline is what sits before us.
I would like to know the difference between a competition pool. There are pool facilities available so can you differentiate."
[Shemilt, who comes from a cometition background as a former Olympian said that there has been an evolution in programming over the last number of years. Municipalities have realized that building a competition pool of 25 metres and six to eight lanes would create a facility that has the most programming choices. You can have master swimming, length swimming, lifesaving training, etc. Then, you can pull in a slide or diving board. A leisure pool is very limited. A competition pool is multi-functional. Shemilt said that the Wayne Gretzky pool in Brantford has been added to. There is a difference between the temperature of a competition pool and leisure pool as competition pool has to be cooler.]
Deputy Mayor Charbonneau
There is an array of opinions on this subject around the table. I think the key thing is that we come to some sort of decision on this issue so that even if we do have to make investments in the current pool facility, that that is part of the larger plan so that we are managing this asset well. That's part of what we are trying to get to here.
It's evident there is a large number of people that support this but I would like to know in your (Shemilt) view, because fundraising is invariably going to become part of the plan and whatever we do, even if it's renovation or a new build . Do you believe that all of that support can be galvanized or morphed into a fundraising enterprise to support this?"
[Shemilt adamantly answered , yes but a specific fundraising effort though. Are we going to renovate or build? If we build, we know what we'll do with that money.
There is already a lot of fundraising that goes on for specific things, such as equipment and sending kids to Australia. If have specific [targets] such as lane markers, etc. we can go to the community. But we can't go to the community without specific fundraising goals.
Councilor Mike Myatt
I think one of the things we should have done years ago, and it's in the 2016 budget, is that we should have had a Recreation Master Plan that would have answered some of the questions today.
I, for one, am committed to aquatics in the town of Saugeen Shores. When I hear the report from Dr. Hazel Lynn (Chief Medical Officer) that 58% of people are obese and that only 13% of children are active enough, those numbers scare me. I think it's so important, and I for one, that we be committed to aquatics for Saugeen Shores. I think also that when it comes time to make a decision, I for one will support the motion and to bring it back sooner than August and, once and for all make a decision on where we are heading for the future of aquatics. Today, I'm not sure if it's a renovation, an addition or a brand new facility but will make this commitment that whatever decision I make it will be an informed decision and it is a big decision. When you're talking about $15 or $16Million for a new facility and, in the absence of government funding, it is a big decision to finance over a 15 to 20 year period.
I don't think however, that we should just lay down and play dead for the provincial government. We should lobby it in a very significant way to seek out money for infrastructure. I know it's not available today but I don't think we should necessarily take no for an answer. I think we should put some pressure on and say we have some deficiencies here and we need help.
When you talk about doubling numbers, what have we doubled?
[Have exceeded 40,000 visits ... some people visit many times and it covers all the programs and groups ... Breakers Swim Team, Lifesaving Club, Learn to Swim, First Nations, sponsored swims and others.]
Myatt also wants to see the Monteith Brown report ... on projections into the future for pool use.
Motion was approved for Staff to bring back a report as soon as possible with a future deadline for a Council decision of August 1st.
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Thursday, January 29, 2015