While the attendance at a public meeting to discuss the proposed new swimming pool for Rimbey may have been a bit on the small side, there was plenty of discussion as town council sought feedback from citizens, and not everyone was happy with what they heard.
The meeting, which was held at the Community Centre on April 6, gave the public their first look at several artist’s renditions of what the new complex could ultimately look like when it is scheduled to be completed in late March of 2011, but there’s plenty to do, and plenty more to discuss before construction even begins.
“Because it’s happening so quickly, it’s difficult to fully gauge where we’re at,” said Mayor Dale Barr. “Certainly there were some comments that came forward at the meeting that we need to consider in the project. Again, we’re waiting until the request for proposals to come back with a design/build concept idea.”
According to Barr, council is expecting to receive approximately 20 proposals on various features and aspects of the new pool that will be further reviewed at another meeting to be held on April 15 before making a final decision, and added that council appreciated the feedback put forth by the public.
“It’s good to see some passion from some people and that it’s close to their hearts,” Barr said. “It shows that there is a need for the pool in the area and we’re just hoping to maximize the dollars the best way we can and at the end of the day, make the right decision to appease the most people we can. Certainly, the goal is to have the best outdoor pool in central Alberta.”
Due to the critical time restraints put in place to receive the funding, which includes $750,000 from the federal government and an additional $500,000 from Ponoka County, Barr said the time to move is now.
“The easiest way to explain it is that a day has been set, there is a line in the sand that has to be met in order for us to maximize the grant. These types of projects can go into multi-year debates over what it should be and how it should be and certainly there are some strong opinions in the community,” he said. “We have to take the position that we have a council that’s been elected to represent all the people within the community and it’s our responsibility to try and make sure that a majority of the thoughts and ideas come forward and hopefully can be included in the project within the budget.”
One of the more vocal citizens at the meeting was Jim Moore who, in addition to penning a three-page letter to council outlining his concerns, would prefer to see the new swimming pool relocated to a different area of the community.
“I think this whole design process was very much a rush job with little if any community input into the design. I think the decisions were made by people who aren’t really users of the pool and this process is the wrong way to do it,” Moore said. “I think the present pool area is not large enough to put an aquatic centre the size of which they are considering on that site, and that’s my biggest concern. At best, the new pool will be mediocre, but it could’ve been spectacular.”
Other concerns raised by Moore include shadows over the water surface at particular times of the day from the nearby Seniors Drop-In Centre, a lack of any significant greenery at the present location, music that is expected to be played that will emanate out towards the seniors centre, increased amounts of traffic in the area especially during school hours and a lack of atmosphere.
Instead, Moore suggested by relocating elsewhere, the land currently taken up by the existing pool could be given to the seniors with the intent of developing green areas which might include park benches, trees, garden spaces or even lawn bowling, but due to the time restrictions, that isn’t going to happen.
“We’re already in a tight time schedule. I would have preferred that we would’ve actually had the request for proposals out a month ago,” Barr said. “We should actually be trying to start as we are with the water reservoir construction right now, as of April 1. So in my mind, we’re already a month behind where the ideal time could have been.”
The request for proposals stipulated that they must have been received by the Town as of 4 p.m. last Friday, April 9. The public will have one final chance to express their opinions and/or concerns at a meeting to be held on April 15 beginning at 6 p.m. in the Lions Room of the Community Centre before a final decision is made once and for all.
“We will get it done. We will do it within the time and the budget. We’ve already had two meetings with the public for input in the project and we’ll have another when we open up the bids and can go through and evaluate some of those to get additional input in it, but yes, we are going to make decisions,” Barr concluded. “We’re not going to debate this for another three months, council will make a decision and the contract will be awarded.”