Former mayor criticises new pool's last-minute even-depth plan

Former mayor James Coghlan says City of Ballarat councillors and executives have gone off the deep end over a last-minute push to redesign Ballarat’s 50m pool.

Councillor John Burt drove the bid to redesign the facility claiming a uniform 1.85m depth would have far more potential as a community resource.

But the tender has already been awarded and construction of a $9 million variable-depth pool is due to start at the Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre on March 12.

A report on both options will be presented to the council on March 13.

Mr Coghlan said the confusion at this late stage showed poor business sense, an “appalling lack of proper governance” and was another example of the council spending millions on a project without even knowing the direction it was going.

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“I think it’s absurd and particularly unfathomable that they would look to review these specs now,” he said.

“This report is due to be tabled the day after the contract is let. They have clearly decided to do this as a result of discussions that happened behind closed doors.”

Mr Coghlan said the matter also brought into question the capacity of the council’s executive staff who “didn’t offer any advice” during last week’s public meeting to clarify what changing the contract might legally and financially entail.

“I think there is a lot of pressure on councillors to be seen to toe the line and be united on views,” Mr Coghlan said. “In this case they’ve made a decision and they want to go back on their own decision.

“I think residents have a right to be petitioning the minister of local government to be having a serious look at this council.”

Councillor John Philips, a member of the council’s 50m pool advisory committee, said it had been debated on at least four occasions by the group with a consensus every time towards the variable depth option.

If there were any concerns, the time to raise them would have been when the council voted to award the contract, he said.

“Variations tend to cost you more after a contract is let,” he said.

Cr Philips said he still believed a variable-depth pool was best for the community and it still allowed for most events, including water polo.

Councillor Vicki Coltman said altering the depth of the pool would not make a significant difference to the project cost, as long as it was planned before the contractors began to dig.

She said the pool should be able to attract major sporting events while still being a place for the community.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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