Work­ing group to meet in early 2017

Euroa Gazette - - NEWS - By WILL MUR­RAY

POOLS across the shire opened this week, and the weather turned on the per­fect start to the sum­mer.

Coun­cil fund­ing of the shire’s four pools, lo­cated in Euroa, Vi­o­let Town, Nagam­bie and Avenel, has been a source of con­sis­tent de­bate in re­cent years, due to their high cost of main­te­nance and the rel­a­tively low num­ber of users.

In the 2016/17 Coun­cil Bud­get, $ 402,200 was al­lo­cated for the main­te­nance of the fa­cil­i­ties.

With the pools only gen­er­at­ing an es­ti­mated $11,300, that leaves a $390,900 deficit for the coun­cil to con­tend with.

Pools are cru­cial part of small com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing the hot sum­mer, and hav­ing them avail­able to con­duct swim­ming lessons for learn­ers is vi­tal to en­sure pub­lic safety around the wa­ter.

The shire sets its per­for­mance mea­sures as the num­ber of vis­its to pool fa­cil­i­ties per head of mu­nic­i­pal pop­u­la­tion.

While this fig­ure has im­proved from 3.3 per cent last year to 4.4 per cent (a fig­ure the coun­cil de­scribed as ‘high’) in 2016 ac­cord­ing to the Shire of Strath­bo­gie’s An­nual Re­port, the sus­tain­abil­ity of the pools when con­tin­u­ing to run at heavy losses must be a point of con­cern for the new coun­cil.

Some within the com­mu­nity have called for the Euroa pool to be com­pletely over­hauled, with the cre­ation of a heated in­door fa­cil­ity.

For­mer coun­cil­lor Robin Weather­ald has been a vo­cal ad­vo­cate for the up­grad­ing of the Euroa pool for decades.

He be­lieves the over­haul of the fa­cil­i­ties, while ex­pen­sive, is some­thing the coun­cil should be look­ing at se­ri­ously.

“The cost to re­pair the old pool is around six mil­lion dol­lars. For an ex­tra two, we could see the pool com­plex com­pletely re­done, and a new cen­tre built,” he ex­plained dur­ing his cam­paign for re-elec­tion in Septem­ber.

“It’s an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise, and pools are ex­pen­sive to run, but it is an in­vest­ment worth mak­ing.

“A new pool will bring not only year–round swim­ming, but a range of new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, im­prove­ments to pub­lic health and well­be­ing, as well as in­creased qual­ity of life to the shire’s age­ing pop­u­la­tion.”

Strath­bo­gie Shire di­rec­tor of as­set ser­vices Roy Hether­ing­ton, said coun­cil was look­ing to ‘rein­vig­o­rate’ the lo­cal pools, rather than at re-in­vent­ing them

“It is no se­cret that pools are get­ting ex­pen­sive to main­tain and/ or re­place but it is im­per­a­tive that we utilise an as­set the ma­jor­ity of the com­mu­nity are pas­sion­ate about,” Mr Hether­ing­ton said in a state­ment.

“Strath­bo­gie Shire’s Pools Work­ing Group, con­sist­ing of coun­cil rep­re­sen­ta­tives and com­mu­nity mem­bers, is com­mit­ted to rein­vig­o­rat­ing the four pools in our re­gion.

“The group has taken a tour to the pools in Avenel, Euroa, Nagam­bie and Vi­o­let Town and have com­piled a ‘ wish list’ of what they would like to see at their re­spec­tive pools and any im­prove­ments that need to be made to re­tain their life­span.”

The work­ing group has also con­ducted sur­veys, tar­get­ing younger res­i­dents, which has had over 500 re­sponses.

“The group will next meet in early 2017 to fi­nalise the Shire-Wide Aquatic Strat­egy (ex­pected mid-year) but will, in the mean­time, con­tinue to sup­port coun­cil with work­ing bee ac­tiv­ity at cer­tain lo­ca­tions and main­tain that high level of at­ten­dance achieved in re­cent years,” Mr Hether­ing­ton said.

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