By Matthew Liebenberg
A well-used facility in Swift Current is showing its age and more work is needed to keep it functional.
Funding was approved during a regular council meeting on Sept. 18 for a project to replace the rooftop make-up air units at the Aquatic Centre and other maintenance needs were also discussed.
“The Aquatic Centre is one of the most utilized facilities in the City,” General Manager of Cultural and Aquatic Services Melissa Shaw said. “Daily users include two swim clubs, special needs individuals, school groups and our community members. As the only indoor aquatic facility, we need to ensure we are making it the safest place for the community to access reliably.”
Funding was included in the 2023 capital budget to replace the two rooftop make-up air units, which have exceeded their life expectancy. They were installed in the 1990s and were serviced bi-annually until 2018, but a switch to an annual service schedule in 2019 helped to keep it in operation.
She explained that make-up air units bring fresh air into the facility and they work in combination with the exhaust fans to remove humidity. However, these units fail during extreme winter temperatures, anywhere between minus 38 to 40 degrees Celsius. The decreased efficiency of the units under these conditions causes outside air to flow through these units and to mix with the humidity on the pool deck.
“The combination of the cool air and the humidity results in a heavy fog and reduced visibility,” she said. “Increased humidity causes unnecessary stress to facility mechanics and breathing challenges for both staff and patrons. In these instances, the facility is required to close for safety of residents.”
The cost to replace the old make-up air units will be lower than the budgeted amount of $300,000. There were five tender submissions in a price range below and above the budget. The City selected the highest scoring and lowest cost submission of $272,406.32 (PST included, GST excluded) from local business Len’s Plumbing and Heating.
The City will order these units as soon as possible to avoid any higher costs due to price increases, but installation will only take place next year.
“They will move into storage, as they cannot be installed while the pool is in operation due to the heavy cranes that’ll be required in the parking lot,” she said. “So they will be stored in a City facility until late spring when school is out for the summer so we’re not interrupting the school season.”
Another upcoming cost that the City will have to budget for is a new lining for the pool at the Aquatic Centre.
“The pool opened in 1981,” Shaw said. “They say an average life expectancy of a swimming pool is approximately 25 years. We have well surpassed that point.”
A recent consultant report indicated the cement integrity of the pool is degrading and a major overhaul is required.
“Unfortunately, cement deteriorates over time, and it does have tile,” she said. “We have worked over the years to patch that tile and grout. Given the age of the pool, we are going to have to make some bigger decisions moving into the next few years, especially if we want to continue operating the Aquatic Centre. So we are looking at our options, and right now it’s looking like a rubber membrane is going to be our best option.”
The pool’s skimmer system, which removes any floating debris, also needs attention. A recent public health inspection found some of the skimmer lines are not working properly.
“A couple of them are just dated,” she said. “So it was noted through a public health inspection that it’s something we need to work on and the staff is working to make sure that those are 100 per cent up to code right now. … The system is still functioning. It just needs a little tweaking as it gets older.”
The City has been giving consideration to other options as the Aquatic Centre gets older, but the cost of a new facility is a major barrier.
“We’re just trying to do our best to keep an aging facility operating,” she said. “And we really thank the public for their patience while we work through some of these challenges. We know that it’s not always ideal to have pool closures and we’re really doing our due diligence to try and prevent that from happening.”
The City has submitted a funding application for a new aquatic facility to the federal government’s Green and Inclusive Community Buildings (GICB) program. The Southwest Facility Foundation, a non-profit community organization, was launched in April to raise funds for the construction of new recreation facilities in Swift Current.
“We are hoping to build that new aquatic facility in the coming years, but until that happens, we need to continue maintaining this one,” she said.
City receives reaction to proposed liquor store application:
The City received public responses in favour and against a proposed liquor store in the south side neighbourhood on the same premises as the Pioneer Co-op food store (350 2nd Avenue SE).
The proposed liquor store is considered to be a change of an existing discretionary land use under the zoning bylaw that requires approval from the City. The application procedure includes public notification and a public hearing.
The City held two public hearings during the Sept. 18 regular council meeting. There were no written submissions or any requests to appear at the public hearing held in relation to the City’s intention to amend the zoning bylaw to add liquor stores as a permitted principal use in a C1 – central commercial district.
However, the City received written responses to the discretionary land use application for a liquor store on the south side and one person spoke at the public hearing.
Two letters were received in support of a liquor store. Both referred to the convenience of a liquor store on the south side of the city. One letter referred to the benefit of one-stop shopping at the Pioneer Co-op location, where it will then be possible to purchase gas, food and liquor.
A petition with 13 signatories opposed the proposed liquor store. The petitioners are concerned that a liquor store will exacerbate several existing issues associated with business operations at the site.
They feel it will result in additional traffic and added noise from business patrons and increased deliveries. There will be more noise due to the installation of liquor store air conditioners and cooling systems. They worry the liquor store will cause more littering of beer cans and liquor bottles in the alley.
They are worried that increased traffic will cause even more damage to the back alley pavement, and there is already an issue with speeding in the alley. The petition refers to various issues related to infrequent snow removal in the alley and deep ice ruts caused by heavy traffic and large trucks.
There is a problem with noise due to late night snow removal in the Pioneer Co-op parking area. They expressed concern about the behaviour of delivery vehicle drivers, including public urination.
Several petitioners attended the public hearing and one spoke in support of their petition. A decision about the discretionary land use application will be made at a future council meeting.