An outdoor pool proposal was met with excitement and questions from Region of Queens Council.
The Queens Community Aquatic Society presented a plan to build a four-lane 82-foot-long pool on municipal land.
The society estimates the cost to build the pool, a therapy pool and accompanying structures at just shy of $3.4 million.
Society vice president Deborah Spartinelli says a pair of anonymous donors has agreed to pay $3 million in exchange for naming rights and the society is looking for the municipality to provide the land, excavation, and infrastructure connections.
Spartinelli says the society needs the Region of Queens as a partner so they can continue to fundraise for the project.
“The region has to be a part of it otherwise you cannot go to the federal or the provincial government and say I'd like to access this grant, or you know, green grant or any of that kind of thing” said Spartinelli. “We don't have a charitable status and we don't intend to get one because it's intensive. So, the region can give tax receipts for people who donate.”
Some councillors were excited to begin the project, but Mayor Darlene Norman was more reserved in her response.
“Yes, someone's got the money and here you can have it, and yes they're going to work and create money for operating deficits. Do we have time to form committees and move right ahead on this this year? That's the question,” said Norman. “Is it a great thing? Yes, it is, because if you look at our 23-24 capital budget, you'll see that there's $2.5 million that Region of Queens has proposed to have been spent.”
The region has set aside that $2.5 million to look at replace the aging Milton pool.
Spartinelli would like construction on the new pool to begin in 2023 but understands to do that the process needs to get underway as soon as possible.
Norman is not so keen to assume responsibility for operating another recreation facility, noting Queens Place cost taxpayers $1 million last year.
“We really have to understand what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to impact our area residents in the coming years. Because a lot of people in Queens County are low income and when deficits occur, they occur on the operating budget and taxes go up,” said Norman.
Spartinelli says the society has a plan to operate the pool without increasing taxes.
“Our goal from the start was to raise the money to build it but also raise money to put in an endowment fund so that the interest from that fund could pay for the running of it,” said Spartinelli. “So, there would be no tax raise in Queens. Nobody would have to worry about trying to come up with more taxes to pay for this”
The mayor is questioning why the Region should be taking this project on at all.
“Who says the Region of Queens have to own and operate it?” asked Norman. “I personally believe that sometimes a good non-profit organization and I'm not saying the same people who have worked hard to get to this point on the ones that have to, but who's to say that a non-profit organization could not do a better job than we do?”
Spartinelli would like residents to contact their councillors and make their support for a new pool known.
“We're giving them a gift," said Spartinelli. "We're not asking for much. Just give us the OK and let's get started”
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