Tara on Local Pool Infrastructure
A new 50m pool and/or aquatics centre has been a source of ongoing community discussion for many years. City Council engaged in a community amenities consultation as part of our Strategic Plan last term, and water amenities in their various forms were identified by Red Deerians as a high priority for the City’s capital plan.
One of the significant challenges of the aquatics vision, however, is that fact that it has one of the highest capital costs and ongoing operating costs of any proposed City infrastructure. To build a pool of the scope proposed is in the order of 80 to 100 million dollars, depending on inflation. This translates into an approximate 8% property tax increase for the capital and operating of a new pool alone in any given year of budget approval.
This latter fact positions aquatics infrastructure as nearly cost prohibitive, especially given the current economic climate where the sustainability of grants from other orders of Government are uncertain and considering the recessed economy and minimal ability our residents and businesses have to absorb even a nominal tax increase.
In order to resolve this ongoing tension between the need to invest in aquatics infrastructure and the prohibitive budgetary impact of it, our Council established a capital savings fund to begin to plan for the future necessity of pool infrastructure and other amenity investment. Established in 2014, the commencement of a capital savings plan mitigates future tax rate shock for our community and substantially reduces the impact on future tax percentage. As a result of the capital savings plan, aquatics infrastructure investment is tentatively scheduled for 2021 and 2022 in the capital plan.
In my view, the next Council will be in a strong position to keep aquatics infrastructure investment in the 10-year capital plan. While the pool would ideally remain scheduled for 2021/22, this will be highly dependent on general grant allocations for infrastructure to Red Deer from Provincial and Federal Governments, the state of our local economy, and what emergent capital issues surface in the budget years until then (for example, the City had not planned on rebuilding the new arena in the short term, but a significant safety issue with the roof required the City to advance the arena in the capital plan). Regardless, the capital savings plan helps to secure pool infrastructure investment in the future.
The other factor that will influence the need for enhanced and modernized pool infrastructure in Red Deer will be the Provincial Government’s decision with respect to the Michener pool. Currently, the City continues to contract pool operations at Michener from the Province, but this is an area of risk to our community depending on their future intentions for the land and infrastructure at Michener in general. Protection of the public interest of Michener remains a strong issue on Council’s ongoing advocacy agenda. Because we rely on the pool capacity at Michener, the next Council will also need to keep a close watch on the Provincial intentions regarding this site.
As always, please contact me if you’d like to discuss this or any other City related matter. I invite you to view my leadership record and platform at www.veerforreddeer.ca.