St. Albert council has debated a pair of motions that could increase capacity for swimming lessons in the city, approving one but rejecting the other.
Coun. Sheena Hughes brought forward a pair of motions she said were intended to increase swimming capacity in the short term, noting the significant projected capital shortfall over the next decade may make it difficult to increase capacity in the long term.
“We have to do is try to configure the space we already have into more usable space for our users before we have to go ahead and build another pool,” she said.
It could be at least three years before another pool is built, she said, and considering the budgetary challenges it could even be six or nine years. Hughes advocated finding solutions in the short term to meet residents’ needs, rather than waiting for a new pool.
The first motion she brought forward, to spend $15,000 to have an engineer look at the costs and feasibility of removing the concrete peninsula from the smaller pool at the Fountain Park Recreation Centre, was approved 6-1 with Mayor Nolan Crouse opposed.
Crouse noted the change would be costly and might take some of the pressure off, but ultimately would not eliminate the need for a new pool.
Hughes’ second motion, which would direct administration to look at options for having swimming lessons in the existing space at Servus Place, was defeated 6-1 with only Hughes in favour.
With respect to the first motion she said the peninsula in the swimming pool, along with the zero-depth entry ramp for those with limited mobility, reduced the number of lanes in that tank by two or three. Opening up those lanes could potentially increase the capacity for lessons at Fountain Park.
She emphasized the motion was just to study the possibility of removing the peninsula, not to actually begin work.
Interim city manager Chris Jardine said staff had looked at the peninsula and whether its removal might bring benefit with respect to opening up space, but it wasn’t seen as an ideal option.
“It’s seen as being not that big of a gain for the downtime and disruption,” he said.
Coun. Tim Osborne said he had reservations about removing the peninsula and zero-depth entry, although he did ultimately vote to move forward with a feasibility study.
“I think we’re just creating a new problem if we’re taking it out,” he said.
With respect to the second motion, which would have begun a one-year pilot project to have some of the low-level swimming lessons at Servus Place in the mornings during low-use times, councillors were not supportive.
Hughes argued the change could help cross-promote other services at Servus Place, as many parents might for example exercise while their children were taking lessons.
But other council members suggested this motion would be well beyond governance, and would be dabbling in administration matters – something councils are typically expected to avoid.
“I think we’re dabbling in an administrative policy,” Crouse said. “I would prefer that we stay at a higher level and that we don’t do this at this point.”
The need for additional space for lane swimming and lessons has been an issue in St. Albert for several years, and the city implemented several changes recently to help address the shortage.
More class offerings were added in the fall 2016 session for the preschool and Swimmer 1-2 programs, which have the highest demand. Registration has been opened up to St. Albert residents and Servus Place annual pass holders one week earlier than non-residents.
According to a report included in the Oct. 3 agenda package, even with the added spaces made available, registration for the Swimmer 1-2 programs was at 99 per cent capacity within three weeks of registration opening.
A new aquatics facility is tentatively slated for the 2018 capital budget, pending the council of the day approving the spending.