A BALLARAT businessman has called for an inquiry into the awarding of a 10-year Ballarat Aquatic Centre management contract to the YMCA.
In a letter to all nine Ballarat City councillors, former lawyer Peter Byrne said the Gillies Street complex was poorly run and unclean, with low staff morale.
Mr Byrne also criticised a lack of financial controls, and called for the centre to be re-tendered.
“It is my opinion, and the opinion of other users of BAC, that the YMCA has run the centre poorly for many years,” Mr Byrne said.
But Ballarat Mayor Mark Harris backed council’s tender process.
“Council doesn’t shy away from this. It was a robust public process and we were looking for the best value for ratepayers,” Cr Harris said.
YMCA chief executive officer Mal Healey challenged Mr Byrne’s claims, and said the BAC was run by “a great team delivering great programs”.
In his letter, Mr Byrne said the men’s change room and showers were dirty and had no hot or cold labels on shower taps.
He also said the gym and pool areas were dirty, including a dust build-up in the air conditioning and heating vents.
“It was annoying to see a centre which had just had a $5 million extension and renovation being kept in such a poor condition.”
He said there was also a lack of financial control in cash collection at the front counter, which left the centre open to possible theft problems.
Mr Byrne said a users’ deputation met with the council over their concerns and was told it could have input into the upcoming tender process.
“We left the meeting feeling (it) had produced a good outcome and we were being given the opportunity to have some input as users of the centre into the terms and conditions of the proposed agreement.
“It came as a complete shock when I read in The Courier that council had let a tender to the YMCA for 10 years for a total value of $5.8 million.”
He also questioned the advice council officers had provided the councillors before the tender was voted on.
Mr Byrne has called for an inquiry into the tender process, including whether the council investigated running the centre itself, as he suggested after a visit to Geelong’s Waurn Ponds swimming complex.
But Cr Harris said it was common for the council to award five or 10-year contracts, which allowed the operators time to carry out their planned initiatives.
“It’s very similar to ones (tenders) that other municipalities have done,” Cr Harris said. “I refuse to accept there was anything inappropriate or poor about it.”
Mr Healey said the financial allegations were ridiculous, as the centre operated in accordance with council policy.
He said the 16-year-old changerooms were showing signs of age and would be upgraded in the next few months.