Swimming in divisive waters
Proposed new pool registration policy would favour Carbonear residents
A controversial draft policy that would ensure residents of Carbonear have first access to registration for lessons at the regional swimming pool is being described by Mayor Sam Slade as “one of the hardest issues we’ve ever had to deal with.”
What’s more, some non-resident parents are describing the proposal as discrimination and are threatening to boycott the pool — and even businesses and other services — if it is implemented.
The seven members of council are now grappling with the draft policy, which would take effect in January if approved, and it appears there are some very different views on the issue, though Slade was not ready last week to share his opinion.
“They’ll know very shortly,” Slade stated on Friday.
Registration has been a hot-button issue, and many parents are often frustrated because they are unable to get a time slot that fits with their work schedules, or all the slots are taken.
And since the Town of Carbonear subsidizes the facility by as much as $150,000 annually, some Carbonear residents have centage come from throughout the TrinityConception region.
Talk of a Carbonear-first policy is not sitting well with many of them, and town officials have been fielding calls and receiving letters from those on both sides of the debate.
Tanya Sullivan of Harbour Grace is among those speaking out. She is originally from Carbonear, and works and shops in the town. She has two young children and registers them in lessons year-round, though she was unable to get a spot for her four-year-old in the fall session.
She believes the current system is fair, and suggested that a Carbonear-first registration policy would only alienate people, cause hard feelings and damage the town’s self-proclaimed title as “Hub of the Bay.”
“As we speak, people are talking and grouping together, and it’s going to come to a point where everyone is starting to car pool to Conception Bay South or St. John’s. And if we’re not good enough to use the pool in Carbonear, we can also buy our groceries in Bay Roberts. We can end our support. “I take personal offence to this,” she noted. Sullivan said it’s not uncommon to sit in the viewing room on a Saturday morning and note that “80 per cent” of the parents are non-residents of Carbonear. She said many of them leave the pool and do their shopping or visit
As we speak, people are talking and grouping together, and it’s going to come to a point where everyone is starting to car pool to Conception Bay South or St. John’s. And if we’re not good enough to use the pool in Carbonear, we can also buy our groceries in Bay Roberts.
— Harbour Grace resident Tanya Sullivan
expressed anger to their elected officials that non-residents have the same access to registration as they do.
As such, a proposed new change that.
But first, here’s how the current policy works: registration is held over four days, based on a rotating alphabetical system to ensure fair and equal access to the pool, regardless of place of residence. So a child with a last name that starts with “A” may have first crack at registration on Day 1 for the fall session, but would have to register on Day 4 during the winter session.
Normally, between 350 and 400 spaces are available for the various swimming levels, and it’s rare that the pool cannot handle the demand, said a town official.
Under the proposed new policy, registration will still be held over four days, but Day 1 will be reserved for those who reside in Carbonear. The rotating alphabetical system will stay in place for Day 2, 3 and 4.
One of those promoting the new policy is Coun. David Kennedy.
Kennedy said the issue was brought to the table after an investigation into the matter determined that the cities of Mount Pearl and St. John’s already have similar policies in place. He noted that Conception Bay South is also looking at the possibility of bringing in a new policy in 2013.
“The possibility of implementing a registration policy is being debated in order to allow taxpayers who pay the deficit an opportunity to register first,” said Kennedy.
He estimated that some 250 spaces would still be available for non-resident users.
The nearly 40-year-old facility underwent a $1 million upgrade in 2011, with funding from all three levels of government. The number of users has increased since then, and a large per- restaurants in Carbonear.
She said town officials need to recognize that the pool would not be viable without support from non-residents.
“By treating us unfairly and unjustly, they will have no pool within a year or two because people are not going to go there. It’s a step backwards,” Sullivan said.
She said the proposed new policy would likely freeze her children out completely, since Carbonear residents will undoubtedly fill up the preferred time slots on Saturday. Because of work commitments, she is unable to commit to week-day sessions.
She said the policy also contradicts recent rhetoric about regional co-operation. She said Harbour Grace covers the operating deficit for the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium, but is not asking non-residents to step to the back of the line when it comes time to register for minor hockey or figure skating.
She called the policy narrow-minded and regressive, and pointed out that much of the money used to upgrade the pool came from provincial and federal government coffers, which includes all taxpayers.
Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs also voiced concern last week, saying “it’s not something I would support if I were on that council.”
Coombs said it “opens up a can of worms” and is “not going to help anything” as it relates to regional co-operation.
Coombs said he would not support the notion of implementing a similar policy at the Harbour Grace stadium, which he said runs a deficit of roughly $50,000 annually.
Kennedy, meanwhile, feels most non-residents will understand.
“I believe people will understand that since Carbonear covers a substantial portion of the expenditures at the pool, that our residents should have an opportunity to register first,” he said.