Pool depth dilemma: Ballarat City Council to choose between use options

THE Ballarat City Council has been asked to choose between an elite pool with the potential to attract new competitions and events or one that provides comfort areas to swimmers.

A uniform-depth swimming pool could potentially be built for an extra $100,000 with little impact on the project’s delivery timetable, council staff say.

It comes after councillor John Burt drove a last-minute bid to redesign the $9 million pool, claiming a uniform 1.85m depth would have far more potential as a community resource.

The tender has already been awarded and construction of a variable-depth pool is due to start at the Ballarat Lifestyle and Aquatic Centre next week.

A report examining three pool-depth options has been published and will be considered by councillors on Wednesday.

It says a variable 1.85m to 1.35m pool would allow learn-to-swim and water aerobics programs to be increased, with consistency and ‘comfort areas’ provided to swimmers.

But the pool could not host a small amount of national-level events.

By comparison the uniform 1.85 metre option would provide a more ‘elite’ facility, with the potential to attract speciality sports such as water polo.

But it would also mean a narrow focus for programming, excluding some learn-to-swim and less-competent swimmers. The design would also increase traffic in outside lanes with people needing to grab the edges.

A third option, which incorporates a moveable floor, would involve substantial delays and would cost an extra $1.75 million, but it could still be delivered within the budget.

If the council determines to vary the pool design, it would have to negotiate a variation to the signed contract.

It comes after former mayor James Coghlan criticised the council’s last-minute push to redesign the pool, describing it as an “appalling lack of proper governance” and another example of the council spending millions on a project without knowing the direction it was going.

He also said the council’s executive staff  “didn’t offer any advice” during last week’s public meeting to clarify what changing the contract might entail, legally and financially.

Asked why he did not comment, council chief executive Anthony Schinck told The Courier the role of the council administration was to provide whatever information was requested by councillors. 

“It is not the role of staff to limit the issues that councillors wish to consider,” he said.

Mayor Joshua Morris said the councillors have been fully briefed on all aspects of Ballarat’s indoor 50 metre pool including, recently, the possible implications of changing the project.