An alternate proposal to upgrade city swimming pools
The Collicutt Centre pool is open 112.5 hours per week, with 74 hours designated as public swimming and 16.5 hours designated as lane swimming.
The G.H. Dawe Centre pool is only open 102.5 hours; it has 67 hours designated as public swimming and 12.5 hours as lane swimming.
The interesting part is that the Michener Centre pool has only 12 hours per week designated as public swimming and 20 hours as lane swimming, and the Recreation Centre pool has 13 hours designated as public swimming and 39 hours designated as lane swimming.
The Michener pool is only open for 65 hours per week and the largest portion of time is set aside for groups.
The Rec Centre is open slightly longer at 98 hours per week but the largest portion seems to be lane swimming. Public swimming appears to be almost unimportant.
The Collicutt is open the longest with more time designated to public swimming and used by more than 50 per cent of the swimming public, followed by the Dawe pool, with Michener pool at the opposite end of the spectrum, followed by the Rec Centre.
The Collicutt and Dawe pools appear to be public pools used by the vast majority of Red Deer residents while the Rec Centre and Michener pools appear to be used by hard-core swimmers and the minority of the swimming public.
So it could be argued there is merit and savings in merging the two pools, allotting the same time for the swim clubs and their 400 members, extending the hours and still offer the minimal hours currently offered for public swimming to at least appear to be a public pool.
It is widely noted that there is a pool deficit in Red Deer, and there is a desire for a 50-metre pool, which Red Deer does not have. A study was done and a recommendation was made that we build a 54-metre pool at the Rec Centre in 2013 at a cost of $74.65 million or $84 million in 2015, plus or minus 20 per cent; $84 million plus 20 per cent equals $100 million.
As we know, political projects almost always go over budget and this budget does not include LEED principles and finishing touches.
A Major Area Structure Plan is being done for north of Hwy 11A, potentially adding 20,000 residents to Red Deer, with a third reading set for March 2015. History shows that the majority of Red Deer residents prefer a Collicutt pool model, and history shows that a pool gets built every 20 years.
In that light, does the recommendation still make sense?
The original study showed that we need to close Michener pool to reduce costs. But it still showed a merged operational deficit of $3 million annually, to be covered by taxpayers.
The latest recommendation is to keep Michener pool open, with an estimated cost of $16 million, which includes removing it from the Michener Centre power, heat and phone grid and bringing it up to code.
This still does not address the pool deficit n Red Deer, which will get more dire as the development in the north proceeds and the Rec Centre pool gets taken off line for years for expansion and the Michener pool gets taken off line for upgrading.
Why not just build a 50-metre pool north of Hwy 11A, in a Collicutt model pool, not close Rec Centre for years and continue leasing the Michener pool as long as possible? It may cost a $100 million but as it stands now, it could cost us a quarter of a billion dollars to renovate the Rec, upgrade the Michener and then build a pool in the north.
Building in the northwest could be used as an economic engine to spur development in the north side of Red Deer. It would address the pool deficit and it would mean that Red Deer would have a 50-metre pool.
As a taxpayer, I am hoping the city takes the most fiscally-responsible road, as well as the most community-minded road and not give in to a single interest group or two. The public has shown its desires with their choice preferences and I hope that the city can see that.