Support for an indoor pool in Queens is growing. At the Jan. 24 Region of Queens Council meeting held in Brooklyn, several people stood to say they would like to tie the construction of an indoor pool to the build of a new library.
The region has received an anonymous donation, alleged to be worth $3 million to be used for the construction of an outdoor pool.
One of the proponents of an indoor pool, Kristopher Snarby, says pooling that with the $3 million council has set aside for the new library would give the municipality around $6 million which they could use to leverage matching contributions from provincial and federal levels of government for a total of up to $18 million.
“But maybe they would each cough up $6 million, which does happen for certain projects where they cost share a third, a third, a third. So, part of it was like, why haven’t we even asked those questions?” says Snarby. “Why aren't we rallying to try to get other levels of government to help support these projects?”
Mayor Darlene Norman says she is a huge fan of indoor pools as she put herself through university working at one.
She understands the health benefits and the community’s desire to have such a facility but questions the long-term affordability of operating an indoor pool.
It’s a discussion she had recently with the mayor of the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg about their own pool, the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre (LCLC) which they operate in partnership with the Town of Bridgewater.
Mayor Norman says as Nova Scotia looks to double its population over the next 40 years the move will be to regionalize services and with the LCLC, Queens has access to a pool 35 minutes up the road.
“We should be helping support the LCLC,” said Norman. “And I believe that as a regional government what we could do is we could talk with Queens County Transit, we could talk with the LCLC, we could see if we could offer subsidized to say swimming lessons and transportation throughout the winter months.”
Snarby says he understands the Region has a couple of million dollars set aside to assist in the development of the outdoor pool and that money could be the start of an ongoing fund to mitigate long-term operational losses.
“And my point was like, if we can fund the building through the federal and provincial government, take that two and a half million dollars to start an operating nest egg and then start building this fund in the next four to five years, which is probably how long it would take to build the facility,” said Snarby.
He is aware assessed home values are going up over the next couple of years which will mean increased revenue for the municipality.
Snarby suggests shifting some of that excess to the operating fund then combing the community to try and raise another $4-5 million while construction takes place over the next few years.
But it’s talk like that that raises concerns for Norman around how long it could take to see a combined indoor pool/library built.
It’s widely acknowledged the existing Milton pool is on its last legs and the Rossignol Centre which houses the Thomas Raddall Library is up for sale, putting the library’s future in jeopardy as well.
Norman is concerned any delay in the construction of either a new library or outdoor pool could leave the area without either service.
“It is my viewpoint that the longer we drag on this the longer we will be without pool facilities and the people in this county, the 10,000 people in this county cannot afford to own and operate a large indoor year-round pool,” said Norman.
Snarby says while the area could be without a pool for a short time, it could be worth it if the community gets the indoor pool they’ve been talking about for the last 40 years.
“Do you rush and say afterwards, oh shoot, we should have done it differently or do you wait and do it right and I don't know the answer to that,” said Snarby. “It's a question the community has to decide.”
Norman says the Region will speak with the provincial and federal governments to find out if they’re interested in funding an indoor pool.
In the meantime, council will be voting on motions suggested by the outdoor pool committee at upcoming meeting.
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