By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
With the city hedging its bets on support from the federal government, it will likely be a dry summer at Rotary Pool in 2020.
Due to the condition of the aging facility on Centre Street South, city staff has recommended the pool close next year to address ongoing concerns.
The recommendation came to a joint meeting of the city’s finance and community services committee recently.
The extensive report containing the recommendation highlighted conditions at Rotary Pool.
Earlier this year, RJC Engineers performed a condition assessment of the pool.
According to the engineers’ report, both immediate and long-term repairs are needed.
Some of the issues RJC identified include concrete deterioration in the pool’s tank surface and walls, unevenness in the pool deck’s concrete causing potential tripping hazards, and deteriorated sealants between the pool deck panels and pool deck concrete cracks.
The estimated cost for these repairs is $90,000 to $110,000 if completed in one round.
RJC suggested the pool itself requires a full rehabilitation, including the removal of the existing liner coating, routing and sealing of cracks and joints within the pool, and repairs of corrosion-related concrete wear of the pool’s base.
It’s also recommended the entire pool deck surface be removed and replaced.
This would require demolition of the existing concrete panels and removal and disposal of the base material underneath.
It’s estimated this work would cost between $400,000 to $500,000 if done in one fell swoop.
The RJC report does not include any required mechanical and electrical work.
A staff report, written by community services commissioner Ron Diskey, finance commissioner Stephanie Sinnott, and corporate services commissioner Tracey Adams, says the pool should be closed in 2020 to address “risk, liability and safety concerns.”
Keith Alexander, acting director of facilities management services, reaffirmed this on several occasions during the joint committee meeting.
Alexander said it was in the city’s “duty of care” to address the issues.
“God forbid anything happened, and we had this information,” Alexander said.
Councillors were faced with several options.
Staff has recommended an $8.02 million replacement of the existing facilities at Rotary Park, including $5.31 million for a pool/bathhouse, $590,000 for the splash pad and $1.24 million for a playground.
The estimated design costs are $636,000 for the pool/bathhouse, $93,200 for the splash pad, and $150,000 for playground facilities.
Under this approach, Rotary Pool would close until 2023.
The joint committee approved a staff proposal to apply for a Canada Infrastructure Program grant for the project.
If the city is successful in securing the grant, it could get about $5.8 million from the federal and provincial governments.
Oshawa would pitch in $2.2 million, $900,000 from development charges and $1.3 million from the general tax levy.
Sinnott believes they should hear back whether the bid is successful by spring or summer of 2020.
If the grant application is unsuccessful, staff recommended the committee approve a backup plan of constructing a traditional pool, and “over-design” the mechanical and electrical systems to allow for the addition of splash pads and playgrounds later on.
This plan would require the city to spend $1.137 million immediately to address health and safety hazards, $1.32 million to meet accessibility standards and $593,000 to stabilize the grounds around the pool.
Under this plan, the pool would shut down until 2022.
The joint committee eventually resolved to refer a back-up plan to revitalize the pool, if the grant application isn’t successful, to community services staff for a new report.
Ward 2 city and regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri said he was “staggered” by the estimated costs for a new facility.
“I’m actually shocked by it,” he stated.
Marimpietri said he “didn’t buy” the numbers in the staff report, and recalled the city building arenas for less.
He said he could not support spending $8 million on the project when there are areas of “higher priority.”
“We’ve got to figure out another option,” he said.
If the city was to close the pool next year, and not receive the federal grant, Marimpietri highly doubts the pool will ever open again.
“My point is you are not going to get this pool back,” he said.
Marimpietri asked if there was any way to keep the pool open next year with some of the recommended repairs.
Alexander pointed out Rotary Pool has existed for almost 60 years without “major improvements,” and the city must take action.
“In the best interest of the corporation, the pool should be closed temporarily,” Alexander said.
Ward 5 city and regional councillor Brian Nicholson criticized staff for bringing forth a report he said was no different from one delivered in January.
“It’s the very same report without change. How are we expected to endorse this in October when nothing has changed from January,” he said, adding it has put councillors “in a difficult position.”
Nicholson claimed staff were “driven to one conclusion” on the issue, and were simply expecting the committee to accept it.
He said he’s seen numerous recreational facilities that the city didn’t “reinvest in until they collapsed.”
“It’s a pattern that has to stop. It’s a pattern we can’t repeat in this city,” Nicholson said. “We as a council over the years didn’t reinvest sufficient funds to keep [Rotary Pool] going. We bear that responsibility as a council.”
However, Ward 4 city councillor Derek Giberson said council was at a point where it had to act, and the fact Rotary Pool is in dire need of major repairs was being avoided.
“There are no more minor repairs to this. It is on the brink of catastrophic failure,” Giberson noted.
Ward 3 city councillor Bradley Marks said staff had done their “due diligence” to make council aware of the issues.
“I really want to commend Mr. Alexander that this problem doesn’t get out of hand with somebody getting injured, and the city ultimately facing responsibility,” he said.
Marks also agreed the estimated cost to replace the pool “is alarming.”
To Ward 5 city councillor John Gray, the priority should be applying for the federal grant.
“Let’s go for gold first. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll strip it down and try and put in some good community features at a much lower cost. Getting hung up on the details if we don’t get the funding, that’s [for] a future meeting,” Gray said.
Mayor Dan Carter said he “100 per cent” agreed with Gray’s “methodical approach.”
“This is now a health and safety issue. It would be ill-advised of us not to face the reality that based upon the information we’ve received in our report, opening this pool is not an option in 2020,” he said.
Meanwhile, the results of a free admission pilot project held at Rotary Pool are out as well.
According to staff, there were 14,500 visitors to the pool this summer, an increase of 112 per cent from 2018, and almost 10,000 more than in 2017.
However, the free admission pilot, along with enhanced programming this summer, increased operating expenses by approximately $24,000, or 37 per cent from 2018.
The matter was before city council on Tuesday, Oct. 15, after the Oshawa Express’ press deadline.