By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
The Town of Coaldale will be holding feedback sessions to decide on the future of the community pool.
During their regular Sept. 9 meeting, Coaldale town council received a report regarding options for the community pool.
Following a critical equipment failure to the pool’s filtration system on July 13 which closed the pool for the rest of the summer, the town implemented a shuttle service to provide residents access to the Village of Stirling’s pool, utilizing the town lifeguards of chaperones.
There were 101 unique users utilizing the program, and although the town had only received four responses on the program via an online survey, those responses were positive.
“I would just like to again state how much we appreciated the work of the Village of Stirling, particularly their CAO, Bob Payette, and Mayor Trevor Lewington for allowing us to put that together on very short notice and get up and running very, very quickly,” said Cam Mills, manager of economic and community for the town.
“They were very accommodating, very easy to work with it. We really appreciated their support.”
Town staff are currently working on an engagement plan to discuss pool options for the town, and have briefed the Sport and Recreation Working Group.
After studying commissioned reports from other municipalities, town staff have produced a rough outline for seven potential pool options to present to the community for input.
The first option is to not repair or replace the pool, which would mean that the town does not have a pool facility in Coaldale.
The second option is to repair the existing pool at an estimated cost of $300,000, which is estimated to extend the life of the existing facility life by 0-5 years, although “realistically”, it wasn’t a long-term solution.
“I say zero because it’s impossible for me to say that fixing the issues we’re aware of doesn’t mean that there isn’t potentially something else that will need to be repaired as well, and also given the fact that again, the pool is 47 years old, we are aware of the fact that it does have some issues with leaking and other things. It’s not something that’s going to provide us with a long-term solution for the community.”
The third option is to rebuild an outdoor pool facility at the same size as the current pool, which the town estimates will cost $3 million, based on costs associated with other recent outdoor pool builds. However, the town is larger than when the pool was first built, and the argument can be made that a pool of this size is too small for the town’s needs.
“The existing pool with it’s existing footprint was built when Coaldale’s population was 2,000 people. We’re currently approximately 9,000,” said Mills.
“A similar facility is being constructed in Picture Butte right now, we are 4.8 time larger than Picture Butte at approximately 1,800 population there. Their facility is going to cost in the range of $3.5 million. So the question becomes, does it make sense to build a facility that was initially designed for 2,000, when we’re currently 9,000, and we may be 20,000 by the end of the projected lifespan of the pool?”
The fourth option is to build a larger outdoor pool facility, which will include a larger footprint and extra features, at an estimated cost of $6.5 million. However, as the town only uses the pool for 10-12 weeks a year, there is a concern about whether the cost is reasonable for the amount of use it will get.
The fifth option is to build an indoor pool facility with limited amenities, which is expected to cost $10 million. However, such as facility will not include diverse features typical sought by swimmers and would not be of significant size to attract competitive swimming competitions.
The sixth is a full scale indoor pool facility with space for lane swimming, a recreational area, full access for those with limited mobility, and other features, which is estimated to cost $25 million. This would be a substantial cost to the town and the price tag does not include the ongoing operating deficit associated with such a facility, which will be about $800,000 a year without including capital replacement.
The seventh and final option is to pursue a private-public partnership (PPP). Town staff continue to search for a potential private sector partner to operate a non-municipally owned facility that could provide residents with swimming access, though municipal control of programming and design would be limited. This approach was outlined in the 2019-2021 capital budget.
“Of course, everything in-between is also possible,” said Mills.
“There’s not one choice that seems strikingly obvious as the correct choice for the community, so what we’re going to be doing is preparing for some public consolation, provide member sod the public with the opportunity to understand what all of these various options are and understand the costs associated with those are, and to see if we can get a clear consensus from the community on what their preferred option is with respect to pools in Coaldale.”
Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig asked if their graphics could be updated to include operating costs or estimates. Mills said it could be, whether it’s on the graphic presented to council or on an additional display, as “it certainly needs to be part of the conversation”. Coun. Briane Simpson requested if they could also show, if they had the budget today, how the town’s mill rates would be affected with those deficits associated with the pool options.
Coun. Roger Hohm asked in the past if there were any recreation grants available through the provincial government to help fund a proposed new pool. Mills said while there are always recreation grants available, it is more of a question of what was available.
“There’s grants you can apply, to say, apply for solar power for a recreation facility, or to provide particle funding for certain components for a recreation facility,” said Mills.
“The idea that there’s a grant that exists that will pay 80 per cent of the costs of, say, building a pool or twinning an ice rink arena, they do exist, they often come about, you know when, maybe as a tool to spur construction during a recession or something like that. They tend to come about and be available for a short period of time and then go away. So if something like that comes up, of course we’re going to try to maximize the value. As far as for a long-standing, constantly available simple money, I would always suggest if there were federal dollars that were going to pay for 80 per cent of the cat to build a pool everybody would have a pretty darn big pool.
“As a general strategy, I wouldn’t sort of suggest that it’s worth banking a strategy on. It’s probably more feasible to look at what you can afford on your own and try to find some funding for that.”
Coun. Bill Chapman said that they should take future population growth into consideration, and his opinion was “you go big or go home”. Noting that that Lethbridge, in addition to the pool at Henderson Lake, has indoor pool options as well, he said that it makes a big difference in quality of life and community. When the ice arena was built 40 years ago, he was sure the mill rate “was effected to some degree”, and despite the seasonal aspect to the arena there was a complete buy-in to make that move forward, and he hoped they would see something similar with the pool.
“I know the cost of the operation I think is something we really need to make sure that our citizens are aware of, and what the mill rate could affect a decision on their part,” said Chapman. “But I think we need to do all of those things, and I’m just grateful that the recreation working committee wants to look at this with a good microscope.”
Council unanimously passed a motion to accept the report for information, and direct administration to move forward with public engagement and get feedback from citizens on what direction they would like to go before council makes their final decision on the pool.