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Pool design and location are ready, now all that’s needed is $20 million

Council and some members of the public were updated on progress toward building a new pool Oct. 27, with a video update posted a few days later.
artists rendition of proposed new thompson pool  interior
An artist’s rendition of the interior of a proposed new pool in Thompson to replace the Norplex Pool, which was permanently shut down in February 2019. Through the design is ready, the city doesn’t yet have a plan for how to pay for the new aquatic centre, estimated to cost somewhere between $15 million and $25 million.

Thompson city council spent close to an hour discussing two resolutions related to the Norplex Pool at its Nov. 1 meeting.

Unfortunately, residents still don’t have answers to the two most pressing questions that have been up in the air since the pool was permanently shut down in February 2019, less than six months after the current council was elected: when a new pool might be built and how it’s going to be paid for.

A little more information is available now than was until recently, as Stantec recently presented its design and engineering study for a new pool to the city. Some of that information was shared with a select group of residents and business people on Oct. 27, according to a video uploaded to the city’s YouTube channel Nov. 1.

The estimated cost of a new pool is just under $20 million, plus or minus 25 per cent, with about $1.2 million having been set aside already, as a result of fundraising and squirrelling away the operational budget for the old pool over the past few years.

Some members of council, who were also privy to the Oct. 27 briefing, questioned if the dollar amounts presented by Stantec were the same as what had been provided before, but the figure is unchanged since council approved increasing a grant request to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) in October 2019.

There were also questions about whether the city had ever really committed one way or another when it came to building a new pool or retrofitting the Norplex, which was estimated to cost about $15 million in a report by the KGS Group.

Deputy mayor Kathy Valentino said her understanding was that the September 2020 decision to award the design contract to Stantec, at a cost of about $1 million, was a clear indication of the city’s desire for a new facility.

Included in that design is a recommendation on where to place the new pool, if and when it gets built – in the field beside the Thompson Regional Community Centre. The new pool will have a waterslide, a six-lane 25-metre accessible pool with one accessible lane, a beach-entry recreational pool, a sauna and a multi-purpose rooms for parties and swim meets. Basically, it will have the same features as the Norplex but the two pools will be totally separate, so the whole pool will not have to be shut down due to fecal contamination, commonly referred to as a pool fouling.

The most important question – where is the money coming from – still doesn’t have an answer, though.

The city’s ICIP grant application didn’t receive an explicit rejection, but Thompson received substantial amounts for road and sewer and water main work, making a third grant unlikely.

“Without the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program, we need to raise most of that,” said city communications officer Kacper Antoszewski in the YouTube update. “The city and council is discussing the best way to fund the bulk of the pool construction without burdening taxpayers.”

A few weeks after the Norplex was closed  in 2019,  city manager Anthony McInnis told a public meeting that every $1 million the city borrows through a debenture adds up to a one per cent tax hike for the number of years that it takes to pay it back.

“There’s nothing as far as I’m concerned right now other than wishful thinking,” when it comes to paying for a pool, said Coun. Les Ellsworth at the Nov. 1 council meeting, when a resolution was approved to commit to holding a public meeting about the pool by March 31. A second resolution regarding looking into the feasibility of retrofitting the Norplex rather than building a totally new facility was tabled until the Jan. 17 meeting.