April 11, the fourth of a series of updates on this vital city of Kingston facility was held to collaborate again with the public on how it will be revamped and revised during a renovation scheduled to take a year and a half. Opening a sparkling rejuvenated pool is scheduled for January 2014.
Heroes of the evening were Lanie Hurdle, Commissioner of Community Services and Wally Ferris, City Department Director of Recreation & Leisure, Community Services.
Someone hiring personnel at City Hall had the wisdom to seek out and hire these two individuals uniquely suited to guide us through this exasperating renovation which everyone,( certainly they), wish could be finished tomorrow.
Why is the closing of the facility such a devasating blow? Certainly because it is a breaking up of long-established community that will never come back together again in quite the same way. Just as seriously, it forces out not only our Blue Marlins but our Master’s Swim Group, from whose ranks contenders have and will come to compete at provincial, national and even international levels. Having their facility unavailable for perhaps two years is a blow from which both are reeling. Leaders from both groups spoke persuasively of postponing or even curtailing these renovations altogether.
To the credit of both Hurdle and Ferris, their concerns were taken so seriously you would think it was a personal loss to both employees.
There were no handouts, one of the few large errors in what was otherwise a useful presentation that enabled a great many questions to be asked and answered. Unfortunately, most of the audience were in the market for facts, figures and specifics.
Amanda Airov, representing concerns of the aqua fit class pointed out the group numbers at least 40 so the therapy pool that only handles 12 at a time would not be practical for classes, “unless they were held every ten minutes, so another portion of the class could get in and out.” Another questioner referred to it as ‘the wading pool,’ whereupon the architects insisted it was a ‘leisure pool,’ somewhat warmer than the larger tank but after a few more attempts to defend the undefendable, dropped the topic.
As far as figures go: City Councilor Jim Neil successfully lobbied for continuing to grandfather anyone who has to drop their membership during this time, for a cutback on fees to use the outdoor pool at the Memorial Centre, for lower fees than planned (due to the inconvenience) when the facility reopens.
The evenings biggest stumbling block was the still missing place for customers to swim while the renovations take place. Jim Hanley suggested making the memorial centre facility into an all-weather pool with the addition of a few walls. Kaaren Brown pointed out that the scheduled hours there, (11-4) were completely useless to customers needing to continue their 7AM swim time. Linda Breen, Director of Scheduling said that she would work out a more acceptable morning swim time if sufficient numbers warrented it.
Judy Wilson had some succint comments: Cutback of showers from 8 to 6. The architects pointed out they expected us to use those in the Family change room. Only 6 new parking spaces, though a drop off lane will be installed to make parking less congested. Margaret Hughes asked that working with the Staples lot be looked into.
“But how could you even present these plans without giving us a n alternate place to swim?” Judy Wilson and then Gail Langly asked again. “Why hasn’t that been put in place?” That question echoed hollowly throughout the evening but it was apparent from the looks of resignation on the faces of Hurdle and Ferris, that they were on the brink of just such negotiations as the meeting date approached.
Actually, just watching the reactions of these two capable civil servants, I felt more than confident that they have something good in the works that will justify our faith in this renovation working for the best for all converned. But as negotiatons hadn’t yet been concluded, nothing could be said.
They listened, Ferris and Hurdle took copious notes, responded with gentleness and understanding which by far was an approach to win over the hardest heart.
As Lanie Hurdle pointed out towards the end of the meeting:”When it is done, we will have such a great facility. No more bandaids patching up an increasingly aging structure. We will have a pool that will last and last and last.”
It will cost 11 million dollars if there are no overruns. The architects estimate that delaying the renovation could cost at least 5% of that for every month of delay, possibly more.
The meeting ended at 9pm. Tempers were kept, innovative suggestions were broached and a feeling of anticipation of new community wafted over me as I left the dimly-lit and acoustically-challenged room with its great gilt portraits and red plush carpeting.

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