Tamworth Regional Council has “committed to the purchase of a new $10,000 pump for the City Pool”, despite claims they are letting maintenance “go by the wayside” ahead of a proposal to sell them off.
Temporary pool closures, numbering 16 so far this season across the region, has members of the public questioning how Council is running them.
The motives of Tamworth Regional Council are also being questioned as it looks to sell off the two Tamworth pools to fund a new multi million dollar aquatic centre on the outskirts of town.
In the last five years several senior pool staff have been let go, or left of their own accord, and two former staff members have suggested that the department is missing those experienced hands.
They are also lamenting the conditions and operation of the existing facilities, including those in neighbouring towns such as Nundle, Barraba and Manilla.
On Monday the Scully Park pool was again unexpectedly closed.
Chlorine levels have been blamed for the majority of the 16 closures along with staffing issues.
TRC declined to comment on the loss of former senior staff members, while Senior Strategy and Facilities Coordinator Paul Kelly declined to confirm the exact number of closures recorded this season.
“We know it is an important service for our community and we take our responsibility in running those facilities very seriously,” he said.
“Our staff have specialist skills and work hard to ensure our pools meet the highest industry standards. Council makes no apology for closing a pool to allow an issue to be fixed. We are not going to put anyone’s health at risk,” Mr Kelly said.
Former pool operator Brian Edgecock “can’t remember a day in 28 years that the pool closed the doors to the public” in this manner or for those reasons.
“I don’t know what they are doing, and I don’t think council do either,” Mr Edgecock said.
“There is something going on – now they want to put a new pool way out of town and close the other two – why can’t they put a new pool in town.”
Dennis Gross was a Pool Superintendent for 47 years in Tamworth, and has been left disgusted by the closures of the pools this season, as well as the general appearance of the facilities.
“I think council are letting them run down – the pools aren’t being maintained, even the lawns and the gardens look terrible,” he said.
“They keep saying that the facilities are old, and they are, but we used to do preventative maintenance all the time, replace things before they break and they are not doing it, they are just closing them down instead.”
“It is not the young blokes, the lifeguards, that they have employed, they are doing their best. It looks like there is no strong management at all, the leadership is missing.”
While Mr Gross agrees that Tamworth needs another facility built, he strongly disagrees with placing it at the Sports Dome away from the city centre.
“It needs to be central, City Olympic Pool is the place to do it, they just need to sort out the parking somehow,” he said.
“There is obviously no planning going on. TRC have made their minds up to build the new one out there, because they want to make money from it, but it is a service – pretty soon they will be charging us to go to Anzac Park.”
Geoff Buckton has been using the town pools for 20 years, and cannot remember a season with any unforeseen closures, let alone 16 in a matter of months.
“Last Sunday morning we had to wait 45 minutes to get in at City pool because of chlorine levels, and then on Monday Scully was completely closed without reason. I rang the council and they didn’t even know,” Mr Buckton said.
“They blame old facilities, but chlorine under or overdosing is completely user error. The people they have hired don’t have the experience.
“Management obviously isn’t up to an adequate standard – the proof is there, the pools are going downhill regardless of whether it is on purpose or not, something needs to be done.”
Mr Buckton also said he did not agree with the proposal to build a new facility at the Sports Dome.
“I can’t see the point of spending that much money to build a facility ten minutes from town,” he said.
“I would much rather see refurbished City and Scully pools that are convenient and that the public can easily access.”
Meanwhile Mr Kelly said while Council is currently asking the community to provide feedback about what they would like to see in a new aquatic facility in Tamworth, maintenance of existing pools is not being overlooked.
“There was substantial maintenance works done at the region’s pools in the lead up to the current swimming season,” he said.
“We have just committed to the purchase of a $10,000 new pump to be installed at City Pool and it will go in once there is a suitable time between currently scheduled school swimming carnivals.”
TRC’s community consultation closes at the end of February and can be found by visiting www.tamworth.nsw.gov.au/haveyoursay