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Proposed Parksville pool ‘on hold for now’, city mayor says

Feasibility study scrapped by RDN after Area F declines to participate
Ravensong Aquatic Centre in Qualicum Beach. (PQB News photo)

An aquatic centre in Parksville is “on hold for now” according to the mayor.

With the Regional District of Nanaimo scrapping its plan to conduct a $170,000 swimming pool feasibility study, the project will not happen any time soon.

Under the Local Government Act, all participating areas must provide consent to the proposed bylaw in order to proceed. Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) declined to endorse the plan.

“The exorbitant inflationary costs of an aquatic centre were just phenomenal,” Mayor Doug O’Brien said during the city’s council Feb. 21 meeting. “It was a question of timing, costs and practicality and so inflation beat us up. The impending tax increases, without an aquatic centre, are so difficult for us.”

He added other similar-sized communities in B.C. have worked on pool projects and not received expected grants.

“I realize that this is a disappointment to many people and to myself as well,” said Coun. Mary Beil. “The request was for a feasibility study and in the great scheme of things, the amount of money spread over all the RDN proportionately would not amount to a lot of increase overall.”

She added the recommendations that followed the feasibility study would have added more costs.

“It’s the right decision at the right time and it can come back later,” Beil said.

READ MORE: Feasibility plan for Parksville pool sunk due to lack of full support

Coun. Joel Grenz said with the pool out of the picture for now, it’s up to council to forward its strategic priority of improving recreational opportunities as the city grows.

Population growth and improved technology are two reasons O’Brien hopes a new swimming pool can be built one day at an acceptable cost to taxpayers.

Coun. Sylvia Martin said it was a “wakeup call” to learn about the ongoing costs a swimming pool will require.

Since infrastructure costs are going “through the roof”, local governments need to prioritize their funds, Coun. Sean Wood said, and a new pool falls into the “nice to have” category.

“This was going to be an expensive facility,” he said. “I think it’s one question to ask people if they’d like an aquatic centre, it’s another thing to ask them how they will pay for it.”

Parksville’s previous council had numerous discussions about a pool, particularly the challenge of finding an appropriate site, before the RDN took on the project, O’Brien pointed out.

“I was representing the fact that on the previous council we received a petition from the good citizens of Parksville that indicated their aptitude or appetite for a new swimming pool,” he said. “We’re going to put this on hold for now and respect the wishes of the other RDN members that chose not to support this.”

Council voted unanimously to receive a letter from the RDN regarding the abandonment of the pool feasibility service establishment bylaw.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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