Decision on Victoria Park pool repairs delayed by Truro council

Town of Truro (New)

Truro Town Council have voted to delay a decision on approving funding for a tender to replace the liner in the pool at Victoria Park.

A motion from councillor Juliana Barnard was passed by a vote of 5-2 to refer the matter to a public council meeting on or before February 17th, and to have staff request an extension on the tender period to allow for further evaluation.

Barnard was one of a number of councillors who wanted more information before voting to approve the tender.

CAO Mike Dolter says the liner replacement project is expected to cost around $500,000, but is only part of the work that needs to be done to the site.

He says that the pool house requires renovations to meet regulations and current COVID-19 protocols, with a rough cost estimate of around $300,000, and says it's out of commission until the problems are addressed.

In addition to the deteriorating conditions inside the building, a separate space has to be created to meet regulations for the First Aid room, which is currently in the employee lunch room.

Mayor Bill Mills says there's also the issue of the leak in the pool, which has meant water coming in to replace what escapes can't be heated up properly and has led to numerous complaints of the water being too cold.

Dolter says the current piping needs replacement within the next five years at an estimated cost of $75,000, while the metal frame which holds the pool and the concrete itself needs to be assessed for damage.

The other issue is the matter of the town's debt load.

Dolter says if they were to borrow $1 million for the project, to protect against possible cost overruns, the town would be just about at its limit and could not borrow for major capital projects or replacing major equipment, locking them into this position for about a ten-year period.

Mills tells our newsroom that the debt limit from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing is fifteen per cent, and the town sits at around ten per cent.

He points to a number of major capital projects the town has undertaken, saying they've been "very aggressive", but now its time to start paying down their debt and build up their reserve funds once again.

Deputy Mayor Wayne Talbot was against the motion, saying it's not prudent to open the pool this fiscal year due to competing financial pressures in the town.

He said permanently closing the pool is not an option, but discussions are a matter of timing, budgeting, and balance, including considering which capital projects will be impacted.

Overall, council and Mills all said they want the pool open, but the question remained as to whether it was feasible this year.

The recommendation from staff was to send the matter to budget considerations this year to allow further information to be gathered and look to the project funding in context with the town's other capital priorities.

Councillors Barnard, Cathy Hinton, Alison Graham Fulmore, and Bill Thomas all noted that creativity might be needed for the pool to open this year, reconfiguring space as needed.

The idea of fundraising was brought up by councillors Barnard and Hinton, but Dolter noted that would take time.

He pointed to the TAAC Grounds project to show how difficult it can be to both raise money and access funding or grants.

Speaking with our newsroom on Thursday, Mills says the town spoke to ACOA after monday's council meeting about possible grants but were told pool repairs are not the type of project they fund.