Pool operators caught off guard

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 09-Sep-2016

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VOLUNTEERS operating the Golden Square swimming pool may  again fight to keep the Maple Street facility open despite the City of Greater Bendigo’s three-year plan to close it.

In what amounts to a communication breakdown between council and the pool’s management committee, president Bernadette Wright said volunteers found out about the closure plans when they read an article in last week’s Bendigo Weekly.

The report, about the August 31 council meeting and the tender to manage the new aquatic centre under construction in Kangaroo Flat, included analysis in the agenda notes which said: “council has previously resolved to close Golden Square and Kangaroo Flat swimming pools upon the opening of the new $31 million indoor aquatic, leisure and wellness centre.”

However, the business case analysis summary for the new leisure centre, published by council in May 2015 said the pool’s committee “will have the option to retain and continue to operate the Golden Square pool if they so choose”.

Councillors talked about meeting with the Golden Square management committee to discuss moves to decommission the pool.

Cr Elise Chapman acknowledged the work of the volunteers, adding if it was replicated at other pools, council “wouldn’t have such a big bill” to maintain them.

Committee president Bernadette Wright said this week she had talked to the council on Monday and been invited to present to a councillor forum in two weeks.

Ms Wright said she would report the dramatic rise in the use of the pool since 2013 when the Golden Square community won its first fight to keep the facility open – 15,500 visits last swimming season compared to 1200 three years earlier.

She said she would comment on behalf of the committee after the forum.

But council’s acting manager of active and healthy communities Lincoln Fitzgerald said nothing had changed since the 2013 decision to allow the committee to lease and operate the pool until closure no later than the opening of the new Kangaroo Flat centre.

“After the council meeting on August 31, 2016, the city made contact with the committee and requested a meeting to discuss their operations and plans, as the Golden Square pool was mentioned in the council report,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“The city is in regular contact with committee members and the committee is aware of the conditions of the lease and the details of the 2013 decision regarding the pool’s eventual closure.”

An entry on the pool’s facebook page said the committee was surprised to read of closure plans in the Bendigo Weekly and would follow up with the council.

“We want to assure you that season 2016/2017 is going ahead, as per our lease, and it will be bigger and brighter than ever before,” the post reads.åç

A community battle to keep the pool open has the potential to be a defining issue in the upcoming council elections given the decision to go ahead with the new Kangaroo Flat aquatic centre was unpopular with many constituents.

Incumbents mayor Rod Fyffe and Barry Lyons have said they will nominate to run in the Lockwood ward again, but Cr Chapman is yet to publicly commit to renomination.

It is understood the pool committee is talking to all candidates who have announced their intention to nominate.


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