Editorial: Buses? Check. Now how about that new pool?

Now that the city has finally, after 14 months, come up with a solution to its lack of permanent transit, elected officials and the administration can turn their attention instead to providing something else that many people see as practically synonymous with local government: an indoor pool for swimming and other water-based recreational activities.

Thompson is now five about five weeks away from celebrating another ignominious anniversary: one year since the Norplex Pool was suddenly and unexpectedly shut down to to structural and safety issues with the building.

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In some ways, the transit suspensions and the lack of a pool are similar sorts of problems. Both are the result of past decisions over which the current council had no say and both represent significant budgetary expenses that won’t turn a profit and are difficult to fund at a time when the city coffers are not exactly full to overflowing and people would like, more than anything, to not see their tax bill rise. Unlike the transit shutdown, neither city residents nor the incoming council knew that a permanent pool closure was on the horizon when they want to the polls in October 2018, though the transit situation shows that that may not make all that big of a difference when it comes to contingency planning in Thompson. 

So far, the city has answered a couple of questions regarding the pool. The first is whether the city needs a pool, and the answer they have come to, and heard from city residents, is yes. The second is whether it should be a new facility or a refurbishment of the existing one. The answer they received from a consultant hired to study that issue is that building a new facility is a better value. Doing this also enables the city to concentrate all of its indoor recreational facilities in a central location by constructing the new pool adjacent to the Thompson Regional Community Centre. 

Important as those questions are, they are the ones that coming up with answers to is the easiest. As of right now, the city doesn’t know exactly how it is going to pay for a new pool. An infrastructure grant application has been submitted in hopes of only having to pay about $4 to $5 million of the estimated $15 to $20 million that it will take to construct a new pool. So far, the city has not received an answer about whether any such infrastructure funding will be forthcoming, nor how much it is going to be. If they receive the whole amount that they have asked for, that’s great. If they don’t, what is plan B? Or is there one at this point?

For those who like to swim, or for anyone with children, for whom learning to swim is an essential life skill, an answer about the funding can’t come fast enough. Even if the city were to get one today, the likelihood is that a second anniversary of being poolless will be celebrated before there is any hope of getting back into the water. The city’s last big infrastructure project, the new sewage treatment plan, began construction more than two years ago. While the structure itself is complete, it is not yet functioning as it should and remains in the hands of the contractors. What are the chances that a new pool could be completed in half that time? The current mayor and council should be motivated to make sure that the process of constructing a new pool moves quickly. They were the ones who made the tough choice to shut down the Norplex Pool. You can bet they want to still be in office to enjoy some of the praise when a new facility is finished. They have about 34 months to make it happen. That’s a lot less time than it took for the Thompson Regional Community Centre to go from the planning stage to a completed facility. Just saying.

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