The Tamworth Residents and Ratepayers Association has requested that Tamworth Regional Council scale back the proposed aquatic facility at the Sports Dome, citing lack of public knowledge, however council has accused the association of spreading “misinformation”.
The TRRRA are concerned the public is not fully aware of the implications and costs of the proposed centre, which TRC has said will certainly see both Scully Park and City pools sold off for development.
While TRC are currently developing plans, it has been estimated the new facility would cost somewhere in the vicinity of $50 million, and would include at least two pools, one heated indoor facility, as well as a splash pad, and further recreational facilities.
TRRRC vice-president David McKinnon has suggested scaling those plans back to an initial competitive grade olympic size pool that would be capable of hosting larger swim meets, while keeping at least one, if not both existing pools open.
“That might cost $10 million, and that way the people who want a competition pool can use it, while recreational swimmers can continue to use the existing pools in convenient locations,” he said.
“Then as money and grants become available and the town keeps growing we can add on to this great complex.”
“The towns pools are public assets and a priority to the community is to have them where people, including children, can easily access them – the town is growing most rapidly to the north and this new facility would move the only pool in the opposite direction.”
The comments come off the back of a survey conducted by the TRRRA that showed more than 55 per cent of the 157 residents surveyed did not know that the two existing pools will be closed and sold off, while more than 80 per cent of respondents didn’t approve of the plan.
However TRC General Manager Paul Bennett, who declined an interview but did issue a statement, said that the TRRRA “is making public comment based on unqualified speculation.”
“In December last year we launched a highly-publicised community engagement program and urged the community to have their say and tell us what they wanted to see in a new facility,” he said.
“There is a strong commitment from Councillors to progress a new aquatic facility which will serve the community for many years to come – it would be a real loss if that process was now derailed by misinformation.”
“It is a significant financial commitment for Council and it is important we deal in fact. However, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation the TRRRA is choosing to circulate.”
This apparent “misinformation” included rumours that “handshake deals” had already been made to sell-off the two public pool sites, which TRC have since categorically denied.
Mr Bennett confirmed the two existing pools are “at the end of their life” and are each running at a combined loss of $250,000 a year.
However Mr McKinnon countered that public services such as the pools “were never designed to make money”, and queried whether the libraries or Art Gallery were also running at losses, and if so would they too be closed.
“We have spoken to the long term maintenance workers of both pools, and they have said that there are no major leaks or ongoing maintenance issues. Any that did exist could be fixed for a fraction of the cost of the proposed facility,” Mr McKinnon said.
“There has been a 50 year gap on building pools, so naturally some more money is going to be needed to be spent on maintenance.
“Council are viewing this as an enterprise for good management rather than a community service – that is not what council was designed for.”
“The council survey did ask what people wanted to see in the new facility, but not whether they wanted a new facility at the cost of the two pools.”
The TRRRA will soon be launching an awareness campaign and running petitions, with the hope of hosting a public meeting at the Town Hall to further discuss the issue.
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