A bid to stop the September 22 swimming pool referendum failed by the slimmest of margins at Maple Creek Town Council.
The vote will go ahead as planned in conjunction with the by-election to fill the Council position vacated by Corrine Collura.
At Monday’s Town Council meeting, a motion was put forward to rescind last month’s decision to hold a referendum on deferring the $2.9 million swimming pool project until at least half the funds are raised.
The motion was backed by Councillors Al Fournier, Len Barkman, and Betty Abbott. Opposed were Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor, and Councillors Cara Teichroeb and Jill Roy.
Under Council rules, a motion is defeated if there is a tied vote.
On July 27, Mayor and Council approved a referendum after receiving a letter from Barry Rudd, the former Mayor. Fournier opposed the move.
Rudd said the community needed a pool, but could not afford a $2.9 million project.
“How many seniors can afford this? People will have no choice but to leave the community. And I would hate to hear a response of ‘Then the seniors can leave’ as has been stated previously with community recreational projects.
“The food bank usage is up as it is used by middle class rate payers that are having trouble making ends meet.
“Thus the reason I am asking for a referendum vote on the swimming pool project. To defer the project until at least half the funds are raised and accumulated before the contract is awarded.”
Rudd, who wrote in a Facebook post that he believed only a contract for design was presently in place, argued that the cost of a referendum would be negligible since a by-election was coming up.
“Also I would request that an information flyer/letter be distributed to all rate payers, revealing the cost of the project and how we will pay for it. True transparency before the referendum vote.
“Please let’s consider how we save our community to be enjoyed by everyone. We are in rough times all around.”
At this week’s meeting, Mayor and Council considered a letter from Claire Pollock, a strong advocate for a pool.
In it, she said: “If a letter from Barry Rudd requesting a referendum on the pool will get you to choose ‘yes’ then perhaps one from Claire Pollock requesting that you not spend the money on a referendum will change your minds to ‘no’.
“We all agree Maple Creek needs a pool! For our children, for our elderly, for our disabled, for our tourism, for our appeal to young families, indeed anyone planning to move here to broaden our tax base, for our mental health (yes swimming does that), for our physical health, to keep our children active and off their tablets for the summer at least and I’m sure, for 100 other reasons I can’t think of at this moment!”
Pollock said the pool committee was committed to fundraising for the project, as demonstrated in the last year. So far, well over $200,000 had been raised.
“Please feel free to come to our meetings and hear how we deliberate as to how to go about getting what we need and help us, as we work hard to accomplish our goal!
“All a referendum will do, in my opinion, is muddy the waters, and perhaps cause us to not get the grants that Corrie Scott has worked so hard to apply for – and you know how much work goes into writing grants – because you will delay, perhaps, the start dates she has tried to come up with as we, together, try to figure out ‘how’ to go about building a pool, and paying for it! (Which none of us has ever attempted before).”
Pollock said Mayor and Council could have voted “no” to a referendum in the beginning. Now she was asking them to change their minds and change the vote to “no”.
“Let’s figure out how to build this pool and pay for it together!”
A motion to rescind the referendum decision was proposed by Fournier and seconded by Abbott.
Councillors agreed that it was crucial that information about the pool project be relayed to the public.
Councillor Teichroeb said fundraising efforts had been incredible.
It was important, she added, that information be provided and that everyone in the community has a voice.
She pointed out that with the next budget approaching, a decision on borrowing would have to be made.
Councillor Abbott said there was a lot of misinformation about the pool project.
She also questioned whether a referendum would paint a true picture on public attitudes towards a new pool.
McKenzie thanked Rudd and Pollock for their letters.
She acknowledged that fundraising was crucial; this had been demonstrated through the firehall project.
How would the community pay for a new pool? she asked. There were three ways: taxes, fees and levies.
“This is what the Town is going to look at,” she said.
It was in October, 2020, that Maple Creek Town Council agreed to award the tender for the pool project to Edmonton-based Master Pools Alta.
The company’s part of the project will involve building the 25-metre, five-lane pool with such features as diving boards, a separate slide with its own landing pool, and a zero entry. At the time it was estimated Master Pools’ work would cost about $1,485,000.
The Town will shoulder the rest of the project, including demolition of the existing pool, lowering the hill, concrete and decking, temporary fencing, building a mechanical room, changing rooms and an office.
One of the challenges being addressed is a water table issue at the site. This must be resolved before construction can begin.
• Voting for the September 22 by-election will take place between 9am and 8pm at the Armoury. Two candidates are vying to get on Council: Tina Cresswell and Linda Cuell.
A public meeting on the Town of Maple Creek’s finances will be held at the Armoury on Wednesday, September 8, starting at 7pm.
Town Council says it will have prepared information on municipal taxes, water rates, the new community swimming pool, and finances from the last four years.
People are invited to submit questions for Council to answer. Questions can be submitted to Gary Schlageter, the Chief Administrative Officer, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or a written letter to the Town Office. Submissions will be accepted until September 3 at 4pm.
The Maple Creek Trans-Canada Highway Visitor Reception Centre will close on Monday, September 6.
The VRC, which reopened on May 21 after being shut in 2020 because of COVID-19, has been run by five attendants this summer: Travis Illerbrun, Leila Noval, Teanna Oulette, Emma Walkow, and Brianna MacPherson
Town Council agreed the VRC closure date at its meeting on Tuesday.