Coun. Paolo Miele wasn't able to keep a report on the feasability of an indoor pool in Niagara-on-the-Lake afloat for the future, despite reassuring council that simply forwarding it to a consultant looking at the town's recreational facilities wouldn't cost a dime.
The report included recommendations that it be considered in next year's budget and forwarded to be looked at as part of the town's facilities master plan study.
A committee was formed last summer at the request of Miele, who made a promise during the 2012 election campaign to look at the possibility of building an indoor pool in NOTL.
The majority of councillors did not support including it in next year's budget, although a four-three vote at last week's operations committee meeting allowed it to go forward as part of the facilities study, with the expectation the vote would be ratified by council Monday — which Miele said would have meant the information would be available should an indoor pool be considered in the future, if the time comes when there is more support for it.
However Coun. Jim Collard, who did not support either recommendation last week, reiterated Monday he thinks an indoor pool is too expensive and added it is not supported by 49.3 per cent of the residents who responded to a survey saying they don't want to see taxes increase to pay for it.
Collard made a motion that the report be shelved.
“It seems to me by continuing on the course we're going, we're leaving it for some future council to discuss. I wonder why we're doing that,” Collard said.
Town staff looked at similar municipalities with indoor pools and reported they're running at large deficits, he added.
An indoor pool could cost between $6,000,000 to $12,000,000 to build, with an estimated annual operating cost to the town of $500,000 to $800,000, “and if you're going to build a pool in Niagara-on-the-Lake, you have to build something special,” he said.
That means it's not going to be the cheapest, Collard said, and will add to everybody's taxes.
“As much as we would like it, we don't need a pool, and we can't afford a pool,” he said.
“It's a nice idea, but it's an idea whose time has not come.”
Coun. Terry Flynn agreed this might not be the time, but suggested sending the report to the facilities study so the information will be there for the future.
There was a time, he said, when the decision might be based solely on population to support a pool, but that's no longer the case — demographics and geography are also factors.
And it's also not a case of “building bigger costs more,” Flynn said, suggesting building better could cost less in operational costs.
“A lot of the work is already done, the foundation set, the information in place. I don't feel we should just leave it on a shelf some place.”
He suggested forwarding it to the facilities committee to decide when it's time to bring it back to the table.
To counter the concern over the expense of the pool, Miele said, “we're not voting today on building a pool or spending money on a pool. We're looking at making this report part of the facilities master plan.”
Swimming, he said, is part of a healthy lifestyle choice, and not just for three months of the year.
“Maybe some people in NOTL some time in the future — not this council — might want to have a healthier lifestyle.”
In recent months, the pool discussion has been “diluted” by other issues of the community, such as heritage, Miele said.
“This was an investigative report. We're not spending any money but there's a lot of good work there.”
Coun. Jamie King agreed with Collard, said with the large deficit the town is facing, it would not be fiscally responsible to pursue the concept of a pool.
Despite Miele's repeated assertion that the “report does not say we're building a pool, we're not spending a dime,” councillors voted five to four not to include it in the town's facilities master plan, with Couns. Maria Bau-Coote, Betty Disero, John Wiens, King and Collard voting to shelve it and Couns. Miele, Flynn, Martin Mazza, and Lord Mayor Pat Darte wanting to see it go forward for future councils to consider.