pool party: WRC votes to invest in local swimming facilities

AT a special meeting of Wakefield Regional Council last Wednesday night, councillors voted in favour of spending more than $445,000 to ensure Owen and Hamley Bridge swimming pools are repaired and open for at least part of this summer’s swimming season, while Balaklava’s pool will remain closed due to a major crack in the base.

At an information session held on October 21, pool committee members from Balaklava, Owen and Hamley Bridge were presented with reports detailing serious problems with each of the three pools, along with the costs submitted for repairs, at a total combined cost of between $1.2 and $1.65m.

At the special meeting last week, council recognised the importance of its local swimming facilities, and voted to support the significant investment to bring each site up to required standards.

All three facilities are more than 50 years old and no longer meet compliance requirements.

Council advised a condition assessment on all three sites revealed a series of issues with leaking pool shells and outdated, ineffective filtration systems.

WRC mayor, Rodney Reid, said while council’s investment in its pool facilities had been limited in recent history, the decision highlights its recognition of the value communities place in their respective swimming pools.

“The swimming pool committee representatives clearly communicated their desire to keep their swimming pools open and continue providing a recreational outlet for all members of their communities,” mayor Reid said.

“While acknowledging the expensive nature of the works, the provision of recreational facilities for our community is at the core of council’s responsibilities and this timely investment should ensure these pools are open to residents for many years to come.”

As part of the discussion, council voted in favour of spending more than $45,000 on short term renewal works at the Owen pool to open it for a majority of the summer swimming season, however will also have to pursue more than $400,000 in grant funding to support about $800,000 of required renewal works at the Owen pool for the following summer.

Owen swimming pool president, Erin Warnes, said the committee was very excited and relieved council is funding the short-term repairs to get the pool back up to standard and ready for this summer.

“The pool is a central part of the Owen community and it was a large community concern when locals realised it might not have been able to be open,” Erin said.

“We were worried we would lose the pool, as it’s so vital for the community in the long hot summers, and it’s such a great way to give the kids of the community something to do.”

“It’s going to be tough for Balaklava over this summer as I know just how vital the Owen pool is for our community, so for Balaklava to not have theirs is a huge loss for their community.

“As we are run by volunteers we are now looking at just how we can accommodate the larger numbers that may come from Balaklava with their pool being shut.

“People come from far and wide to use the pool, we’ve even had people come from as far away as Yacka just to use the high diving boards – it’s a draw card for the town.

“With a local primary school of only 50 kids, we were somehow able to get 84 kids out to the pool last year for our vacswim lessons, which was really amazing.

“It’s great to see council get behind it and fix what the community needs.”

Hamley Bridge too will have their pool open some time in the New Year, after council spends more than $400,000 in renewal works, while also factoring in design works for the main pool shell at Balaklava.

WRC CEO, Andrew MacDonald, said council had positioned itself to attract as much grant funding as possible.

“The Premier’s announcement of a $100 million infrastructure funding program coming in this year’s State Budget is unprecedented and council recognised it must have well-developed, fully costed plans for projects to attract funding and deliver projects the community wants,” he said.