Pool decision deferred yet again

The council was expected to vote on approving architect plans for a 25-metre pool, the appointment of a project manager and the development of a business case last Tuesday.

However two separate alternative motions were put forward, both of which failed.

The first, proposed by councillor Samantha Jenkinson, would have seen a referendum on the facility take place during the October 2013 local government election. The other, by Cr David Lagan, would have seen the City to take no action until the State Government agreed to fund the project on a 50/50 basis.

After almost an hour of debate, the council voted to defer the item until after a special electors’ meeting on Monday, June 24, called for by long-time pool campaigner Lynley Papineau, with the signatures of 100 residents. The main sticking point for the City is the cost of the facility.

While supporters have made it clear they would like a 50-metre facility, the price tag of $43.6 million on the officer’s recommended option, a 25-metre pool with ancillary provisions and supporting amenities would still make it the most expensive project ever undertaken by the City of Stirling.

Capital works for the 50-metre option would cost just under $50 million.

To date, the most expensive project undertaken by the City is the construction of its current administration building, at about $30 million.

That project was paid for largely by land sales from the City’s old depot site, which meant the cost had minimal impact on rates.

Several councillors fear that without significant input from the State Government, which is unlikely, the only way the City could raise the funds for the project is by raising rates significantly.

Mrs Papineau said that not enough progress had been made in the two years since the last special electors’ meeting, and the preliminary plans submitted since the October council meeting were not good enough.

‘All we’ve seen are some preliminary drawings with some shapes on a piece of paper. In seven months, that’s what’s been returned to the community,’ she said.

‘We have gone round in circles for two years and we’re no better off.

‘If the council rejects the pool in the end, then we will have to live with that.’

Mayor David Boothman acknowledged that while the council had to make a decision, there was an element of rates protection that needed to be considered.

‘It is still a yes or no proposition,’ he said. ‘All our discussions and the research we had done have told us that a 25-metre pool is the best model and would be the most widely used.

‘We can’t just build an expensive hole in the ground that we’re going to pour money into each year.

‘There are 205,000 people across the City of Stirling, and it’s their money we’re going to be spending.

‘There needs to be an element of rate protection in our decision. We’re apparently looking at $40 million at least.’