City council voted Monday night to revise its plan for conceptual designs in a forthcoming design report on the new aquatic centre.
Council supported a motion made by Coun. Shauna Morgan that will have the city’s replacement for the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool’s design study include conceptual information on a 25-metre lane pool, in addition to an already planned 52-metre lap lane.
Including both in the design report will cost $75,000, senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett said Monday.
Bassi-Kellett told council there have been many questions from the public in recent months concerning what a 25-metre lane pool option might mean for overall costs and programming.
“At this point in time, direction from council has been to pursue a design plan, a Class D license, to look at o and m implications and programming – all focused on the 52-metre (lane option),” said Bassi-Kellett.
“To ensure that a fully and informed decision can be made … there have been quite a bit of questions from members of the public. There have been comments that came up through the budget process. Councillors themselves have asked what would it look like if there was a 25-metre lap pool included instead of a 52 metre.”
The city has until March 2023 to spend $12.9 million in federal Building Canada funding. If council desires to move ahead with the project, the city will have to seek referendum support from the public to borrow the rest to cover the estimated $50 million project.
Last December, council was presented with options of renovating the existing Ruth Inch facility with a 25-metre pool for $41 million, or $48.7 million for a expanded 52-metre pool, or to go ahead with a new building with a 25-metre pool at $47 million.
A pre-design plan, presented in 2018 recommended a new building with a pool with a 52-metre lane.
Morgan said on Monday information on the 25-metre option would be helpful in the design report to complement the anticipated 52-metre information.
“This amendment just clarifies that we would just want the consultants to similarly do an analysis of the 25-metre lap pool so that we can compare the numbers for each to see how much more it would be for the 52-metre lap pool,” she said, noting that council should be fully aware of the “consequences” of choosing the longer option, including cost for construction and ongoing operations and maintenance.
Morgan said she has received feedback from the public wanting to get more information about the 25-metre lane pool option..
“I’ve heard from many residents that think it is important for us to consider the 25-metre pool option,” she said. “It could be considerably less. These are not the best economic times for Yellowknife so we want to be as smart as we can with the tax-dollars that we have and find the best facility for Yellowknife especially setting us up and going forward year after year and saving the most money that we can.
“It is important to look at all our options and get people’s feedback on that so we can have the best case possible that we are designing the aquatic centre that we need.”
Couns. Niels Konge and Rommel Silverio were the only two who opposed Morgan’s motion.
Konge, who has been chair of the Aquatic Centre Advisory Committee, said that there has already been extensive information brought to council based on community consultations as well as a household survey.
“There were quite extensive consultations on this and I’m not going to say it was overwhelmingly supportive for a 52-metre pool, but there certainly was support for that,” he said.
Konge said he has heard from people who have both lower and higher expectations for what the community needs for a pool and that it is council’s task now to move forward and make the most appropriate decision for the community.
“There are some people who don’t want any pool and would be happy if we went to Canadian Tire to buy two (for) $9.99, put them out in the middle of the park and call it a day,” he said.
“We are going to see everything from people who don’t want anything to people who want more … a dive tank, 10-metre diving board, slides and everything.”
Konge said council needs to “stay the course” on plans to move forward with a 52-metre lane pool and that the motion opens the door to going backwards for what the growing community needs in a new aquatic centre.
Coun. Julian Morse supported Morgan’s motion saying that he liked the idea of getting more information on where the benefits lie between the two lane-length options.
“The only reason I would be in favour of this motion is that I want to make sure we are making as informed a decision as possible,” he said.
“So if it is possible with a 25-metre pool that we can meet community’s needs and it turns out to be cheaper, that is a consideration. If it turns out to be not a whole lot cheaper and the 52-metre lane has certain advantages, that will inform my decision as well.”
The motion also received vocal support from Mayor Rebecca Alty and Coun. Steve Payne.
There was no indication on Monday when the design report might come back to council, however Grant White, director of community services said the document will include an in-depth comparison of the cost implications between 52-and 25-metre pools including the number of daily patrons that can be accommodated, costs of regular programming and how many lessons can be operated and offered to schools.