In the poker game over the continued closure of the Gibsons pool, town council has seen the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s (SCRD) “COVID hardening” costs and raised them, moving forward on an expansion proposal.
Council voted Oct. 20 to offer the SCRD up to $5,000 from the Muriel Haynes Trust to cover the cost of “COVID hardening” measures in an effort to get the regional district to reopen the pool as soon as possible.
Councillors also expressed frustration over the SCRD’s stance that the pool should not be reopened yet and the lack of information.
“The regional district has not as yet responded to our request in writing that we made over a month ago for information relative to the opening of the pool,” Mayor Bill Beamish said, adding that the Town has been quoted figures ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 for the cost of the necessary COVID protection measures.
The letter was discussed at an Oct. 8 SCRD committee meeting and the committee’s recommendation on a response was expected to be ratified by the board Oct. 22.
The operating costs for three months have been estimated at $61,000 but Coun. David Croal, the town’s representative at the SCRD, said getting a clear picture of what it actually costs to run the Gibsons pool has been difficult.
“The budget for recreation with the regional district [is] mind boggling and [the board] has asked [staff to] give us the cost of operating a single facility, and what the revenue is so we can look at it,” he said.
Croal also said he’s asked for clarification on the regional district’s response that the capacity of the pool would be limited to 25 people and whether that means 25 users or 25 people in the building, including staff.
Coun. Stafford Lumley said residents aren’t balking at the cost of keeping the pool open – they just want to be able to use it.
“No one’s complaining about the cost. The only people complaining about it is the regional district,” said Lumley. “They’re like a horse with blinders on and they’re unwilling to accept any reasonable argument from anybody else, especially the town where the pool is in.”
At points during the discussion Lumley called the SCRD’s decision “lunacy” and “stupid.”
“There’s many people in this community who agree with you,” Beamish told him.
An update on the Muriel Haynes Trust from the finance department said the fund has grown from the original bequest of $131,315 to $204,698 but the terms of the trust, which was established when the pool was still owned and operated by the town, say it can only be used for “capital improvements.”
Council was unanimous in backing Beamish’s motion to offer the SCRD $5,000 to cover capital costs of a reopening, which he said would send a message to the SCRD and community members who’ve been writing the Town and have now started a petition calling for the pool to reopen.
“It takes away one aspect of [the SCRD’s] argument and shows good faith with our community and shows support for our community,” he said.
Coun. Aleria Ladwig told council that she’d like to see the SCRD pushed to make some of the improvements Muriel Haynes wanted and put forward a motion that the regional district be asked to come back to the town with quotes for an expansion.
“We've got $200,000 to improve our pool that was donated to us by a woman that wanted to see these improvements done,” she said. “Let's open up this issue because our pool’s too small, it doesn't provide for the needs of our community.”
Ladwig’s motion also passed unanimously and Beamish said he expects it to “open up a conversation” with the SCRD.
“It lets them know this council, this town is intent on having something happen,” he said.