Lisa Gervais: Don’t rule out future pool
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | October 19, 2017
We hope Minden Hills’ staff and council are serious when they say that an indoor swimming pool may one day be incorporated into the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena and Community Centre.
For county indoor pool proponents, the news wasn’t great last Tuesday. Director of Community Services, Mark Coleman provided a written report and spoke at the committee of the whole council meeting.
He was updating councillors on the work of the arena task force. That was the group formed in 2015 to come up with renewal options for the mid-life crisis, 45-year-old facility. It comprised Reeve Brent Devolin, councillors Ron Nesbitt and Lisa Schell, and community members, Peter Oyler, Jim Garbutt and Dwight Thomas, as well as staff.
When the task force first floated options in 2016, there was no talk of an indoor swimming pool. It wasn’t until a public meeting last fall, attended by about 50 people, that the pool issue resurfaced. It had first come about when a community group calling itself the Community Swimming Pool Initiative went to County council in 2014. They presented their case as to why a swimming pool was a viable option. It went nowhere. So, when some Minden residents heard about the options for the S.G. Nesbitt arena and community centre they renewed their calls.
Sadly for them, the option council is going for does not include an indoor swimming pool or an indoor walking track. But, the municipality has not completely shut the door.
Coleman told The Highlander a typical 25m, four lane pool with secondary leisure/therapy pool is in the range of $9 million to build and $300,000 to $500,000 annually to operate as well as $500,000 annually for capital maintenance.
We did a little research and found out that consultant Jim Morgenstern of dmA Planning and Management Services did some work for Exeter council in 2014. He told them it would cost $9-13 million to build an indoor pool with annual operating costs of about $450,000 – not far off Coleman’s numbers.
Morgenstern said having an indoor pool is one of the most desirable recreation facilities a community can have, but they are very expensive. In fact, at that time, only 18 per cent of communities with a population of less than 10,000 people had indoor pools.
It would appear the task force was never really interested in a pool anyway. Jim Garbutt outright dismissed the idea at that meeting last fall.
But Coleman says the task force did look into it. He said research involved reviewing feasibility studies, operating budgets at centres with pools, things such as revenues, expenses, attendance and member numbers, human resource issues and staff and consultant reports from other communities.
Despite Minden Hills 7.7 per cent growth rate at the last census, the task force concluded the municipality doesn’t have the population or tax base for a pool.
An indoor walking track and fitness room could add another $1.5 million to the tally, Coleman guessed. But, Coleman said the door to a future swimming pool has not been completely slammed shut.
He told us the facility could be redesigned in future to allow for build-ons, such as a pool.
Nesbitt said the same. He said the task force did talk about a pool but there isn’t enough money to do it now. He personally would love a pool. He also said if anyone has ideas as to how to make it happen, he wants to hear from them.
In the meantime, when the township prepares a request for proposals (RFP) for engineering and architectural expertise they should ask for a set of plans to accommodate a future indoor swimming pool. Having a plan will give them a leg up if the province decides to dangle a preelection recreation grant Ontario-wide. It will also indicate that they are serious about one day having a pool.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.