An indoor pool with a constant depth of 1.85 metres will be constructed at the Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre after Ballarat City Council last night did an about-turn on the approved contract for the project.
Cr John Philips, voting against a motion for a uniform-depth pool, said he was wary of the financial effect the change could have with the contractor.
“We’ve already awarded the contract. I’m always very wary when an estimate appears,” Cr Philips said.
In the council agenda, a report stated it would cost an extra $100,000 to construct a pool of uniform depth, however it admitted that figure had not been confirmed.
“They’re not guaranteed to stick to the price, and the fact that we don’t know what it will be worries me.”
He said the shallower end provided the opportunity for more people to use it.
At a meeting in February, a contract was awarded to A.W Nicholson to build a 1.35 to 1.85 metre variable-depth 50 metre pool for $8,898,500.
The council will now have to renegotiate costs with the contractor, but major projects delivery manager Jeff Pulford said he expected it to cost no more than $100,000 above the original tender.
Councillor John Burt said he was speaking from the heart with his desire for a uniform-depth pool.
“This is something I’ve been waiting for for 25 years,” Cr Burt said.
“In the past week I’ve been labelled as an elite swimmer. I’m not.
“I could almost go into the geriatric ward. I find swimming therapeutic.”
He said as the contract came in under budget, they had the opportunity to take more time to discuss the matter and make the right decision.
Cr Samantha McIntosh said the pool would free up space at other pools and create another opportunity for Ballarat.
Cr Des Hudson said it was with a heavy heart that he voted against the motion.
“We awarded the contract and the motion was passed at the previous meeting, yet not even a question was raised,” Cr Hudson said.
“Now at the 23rd hour, we have a last-minute motion after we had the green light and everything was planned. This is based on the argument if you build it they will come, which is outrageous.
“This will become just an elite pool and not for the community.
“If we proceed down this path, we are saying to the families and non-elite swimmers from our community: thanks for your money but this pool isn’t for you.”
Swimming representatives Anthony Hoffman and Morgan Murphy both spoke on the matter and were questioned by councillors before they started the debate.
Cr Amy Johnson said it took her a long time to come to the decision, but this was a plan for the future.
“We need a number of different pools, which serve different purposes,” Cr Johnson said.
Cr Joshua Morris said he was thinking of the future with his vote.
“And this pool has options to change if we see the demand from the community,” Cr Morris said.
“I believe the discussion about the community verses elite has gone off-track. It’s about the community.”
Cr Peter Innes said it was amazing that the committee voted six-one in favour of a variable-depth pool and the council was now going against that recommendation.
“I want it to be for the greatest use of the community so I can’t support this recommendation.”
Cr Vicki Coltman said it had been raised with her three weeks ago and it was a conversation the community was having.
Cr Belinda Coates said from what she had heard and discussed, it wouldn’t bring many special events to Ballarat.
“I want to see it maximise community benefits, being a week-to-week and day-to-day pool, with more kids, more elderly and more aerobics classes,” Cr Coates said.
“It’s good that we’re having a debate, but we should have had it earlier instead of now with such thin evidence.”