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February 10th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 6
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Council’s approval of outdoor design sparks a ‘great pool debate’
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
Work on the new community pool could begin in August and conclude in time for the summer of 2017.
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
With limited funds for recreational infrastructure and over the objections of vehement internet commenters, council last week approved the construction of a new outdoor pool in Blairmore, launching ‘a great pool debate.’

After the new outdoor design was revealed two weeks ago, citizens took to their keyboards to argue that an indoor pool would be a wiser investment. An indoor facility, they argued, could be enjoyed year round instead of a few months a year, would provide long-term employment for pool employees. It would also be a substantial piece of recreation infrastructure that would attract more people to the community.

“Now is not the time to settle for second best; now is the time to plan for an amazing future! We can do this!” said one commenter.

“How does $1.3 million not buy a roof? … I welcome the idea of an indoor pool… something to show for our tax dollars,” said another.

“I sure wish it was an indoor pool. Then I could swim all year long. It is the only exercise I can do with my back problems,” said yet another.

The municipality has already passed several borrowing bylaws to finance the project. It released a statement highlighting that outdoor facility would be preferable.

An indoor pool, similar in size to the proposed outdoor design, would cost approximately $15 million, said the statement. That’s over 10 times the cost of the $1.3 million outdoor design recently approved by council.
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Building an indoor pool would, “result in approximately a 20 per cent increase to taxes. If a residential tax bill were $2,500, it would increase to $3,000. In addition, people would need to pay user fees to access the facility. Family memberships for similar facilities typically exceed $500/year,” it continued.

The municipality could apply for a loan to build an indoor facility but that would limit the community’s borrowing power, which it needs to finance other capital projects like roads, buildings and sewers.

“Council does not believe that would be an appropriate course of action at this time,” said the statement.

The community has been unlucky in looking for alternative ways to pay for recreational facilities. Last summer, the municipality had applied for a Canada 150 grant, to help pay for the pool but the grant was denied.
The costs of an indoor facility

One needs only to look a few kilometres east and west along Highway 3 to encounter other communities struggling to operate indoor pools.

Lloyd Smith, director of Leisure Services for the town of Fernie, said his community is challenged financially to operate the Fernie Aquatic Centre, an indoor facility that includes an eight-lane 25 metre competitive pool, a hot tub and a steam room.

“Generally speaking, we don’t have a big population relative to the typical size of a community that has an indoor pool,” said Smith.

Most indoor facilities operate at a 20 per cent loss, said Smith, which means that for every 20 cents they bring in, they spend a dollar.

The Fernie Aquatic Centre operates at about 30 per cent. Smith called it “a good recovery rate.”

Smith said building an indoor facility is more complicated than simply placing a roof over an outdoor pool.
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“You need to put a building on top of a pool,” he said. “You have a lot of issues to deal with in terms of humidity and making sure there’s enough fresh air. You’ve got to flush the pool building constantly. You need huge pieces of equipment.”

The Pincher Creek indoor swimming pool also operates at a 30 per cent cost recovery rate. Their facility posts a net loss of about $408,000 per year. They also receive about $187,000 from the MD of Ranchlands to help with operating costs.

In deciding whether to invest in an indoor pool, the town of Golden B.C. went so far as to hold a referendum.

Jordan Petrovics, manager of Recreational Services for Golden, said his community held a joint referendum that included people from the community and the regional district in 2007 on whether or not to build an indoor facility.

The indoor side lost by about five votes, he said.

“There’s so much other infrastructure within the community that needs replacement. And that’s stuff like water, sewer and road infrastructure,” said Petrovics. “Do we push to replace the pool or do we push to replace those sewer pipes?”

Golden is in a similar situation to the Pass. It has about 5,000 residents with another 3,500 living in the regional district. They still use an existing outdoor facility built in the 1970s.

The Pass’ outdoor design has been approved by the Pool Request for Proposal Evaluation Committee, the Parks and Recreation Board and representatives from the Crowsnest Can Do Cultural and Recreation Society.

But the Cando group has been raising funds in the hopes of building a multi-million dollar cultural and recreation centre that would include an indoor pool, track, racquet ball courts, weight room, gymnasium, dance studio and theatre.

Their proposed building site is in Coleman between Crowsnest Consolidated High School (CCHS) and the Coleman Sports Complex.

In March 2015, Crowsnest Can Do President Tim Juhlin said demand for a recreation centre is high citing a questionnaire where 70 per cent of respondents were in favour of a new recreation facility. Fifty-five per cent wanted an indoor pool.
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February 10th ~ Vol. 85 No. 6
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