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Home City Council Mayor promises to bring Marion Aquatics fundraising report back in August

Mayor promises to bring Marion Aquatics fundraising report back in August

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Mayor promises to bring Marion Aquatics fundraising report back in August
Patrons take part in a class at the Marion Aquatics Pool in November 2017. -- Photo submitted by Cynthia Stahl.

Mayor Greg Dionne said he plans to bring forward a fundraising report in August that will help decide the future of Marion Aquatics Centre.

Council received their first look at the estimated dollar figure required to keep the facility open for public use at their July 19 executive committee meeting. The facility is home to clubs like the Prince Albert Pikes synchronized swimming team, and provides swim time for schools rentals and swim classes.

Dionne said it’s unlikely the City can afford to keep the building open without strong partnerships with nearby communities and RMs, or support from local organizations and businesses.

“I had quite a few emails sent to my office saying they support the pool, so I wrote to all those people giving them the history of the pool and the donation request,” Dionne said during the July 19 meeting. “I’m looking at all avenues. The government has no funding available and will not participate.”

Dionne said he’s waiting to hear back from five RMs who were asked to support the project. He said many of those councils haven’t met during the summer, and likely won’t meet until August.

The mayor also sent 10 letters out to individuals asking if they’d support keeping the pool open. As of the meeting, he’d received only two responses, one of which from a local businessman who offered to chip in $50,000.

Dionne said residents need to be patient while council considers its options.

“It is important that we go through the procedures,” Dionne said. “We now know the cost. We did not know (last meeting). It was a guess before. We now know. It is confirmed … so now we are looking at funding models, because the way it stands today, if you want to make a motion to fund $500,000, you won’t get my support.

“Let’s continue to see if we can find a solution, and the solution is funding partners.”

Dionne faced criticism from Ward 3 Coun. Tony Head, who said council had all the information they needed to start making fundraising plans. Head said the roughly $500,000 City administrators estimated it would cost to keep the pool open and let the public use it was nothing they weren’t expecting. He urged council to be more proactive at the meeting, especially since the 1,000 signature petition presented to council showed the public wanted to keep the pool open.

“I lot of work went into this (petition) and I would hope that as a City council we’re able to find some solutions today to look at reopening the doors,” Head told council.

“It’s not a surprise to see that half-a-million dollar chunk,” he added. “I’m not going to support receive and file. I’d actually like to see us put a motion together and support this petition.”

At least two councillors said they won’t support keeping the pool open unless the City can find partners. Couns. Blake Edwards and Dennis Ogrodnick said there’s no doubt the facility is a benefit to the City, but said taxpayers can’t handle any more increases. Both questioned how the City could afford to pick up the tab.

“I think it’s a great pool. I think it should stay open. I want it to stay open. I think we need it to stay open, but there needs to be some people coming up with some funding,” Edwards said.

“Good for (the people who signed the petition) for wanting to keep that pool open, but are they willing to step forward and help fund it. To me, that’s the important part. If a thousand signatures are saying, ‘keep it open, City,’ then I want them to step forward and say, ‘here’s my $20 for the year.’”

Ogrodnick emphasized that the City never owned the facility, and only helped the current owners keep it open the last three years. He said he would support a similar situation going forward with new owners and operators.

At least one councillor questioned the validity of keeping a facility open that offered so little public swimming. Coun. Ted Zurakowski said most of the facilities users were sports clubs, schools, community groups, or rentals. Without more public swim options, Zurakowski said he’d find it hard to keep the facility open.

“People have said to me, ‘come on Ted, we’ve got to keep it open for the kids.’ Really? I don’t see any public swimming here. I don’t see it. ‘Let’s keep it open for the neighbourhood.’ Okay, but I don’t see any public or family swimming in the numbers,” he told council.

Community Services Director Jody Boulet said providing public access was what pushed the estimated costs up to the $500,000 mark. He said there were still some unanswered questions around funding costs, but emphasized that opening it up to more than just the current user groups would significantly increase the cost.