CITY of North Vancouver council is open to the idea of a 50-metre pool at a rebuilt Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre, but not if it means increased costs to city taxpayers.
Council had been planning for a 25-metre pool at the facility but on Monday gave a group of pool users until the end of November to come up with a plan to pay for a bigger pool and its upkeep.
The city has set Nov. 30 as the target date to wrap up a process to gauge the public's appetite for a proposal to include about 350,000 square feet of private development as part of a revamped centre to help offset the costs.
Council chambers were flooded with members of North Shore swimming clubs Monday night as council deliberated what to do with their request for a 50-m pool.
Speaking for around 20 different swimming clubs, Linda Sullivan, urged council to consider the benefits of including a 50m pool. Among them: an increased ability to attract new users, similar to how Vancouver's Hillcrest Community Centre draws an unprecedented million-plus visitors per year; the ability to host large scale swim meets; and, an increased opportunity to tie in private revenue from swimming apparel sales and physiotherapy.
Council members agreed: a 50-m pool would be a lovely asset for the city, but it was simply out of the 50,000 taxpayers' reach to build and operate one. It would take the population base of the entire North Shore to justify a pool that large, most of council argued.
"We're not going to subsidize an area-level facility on the backs of just city taxpayers," Coun. Guy Heywood said.
A 25-metre pool is expected to cost about $18 million. Upgrading to 50 metres would add another $10 million onto the construction costs, but the operating costs are closer to three times higher with the larger tank, Mayor Darrell Mussatto noted.
"We have so many needs, and we have to cut down especially on operating needs. That's the stuff that kills us - the things we're really hooked on. And at $1.3 million a year, that's a four-per cent tax increase for us, just for operating," he said.
The biggest stumbling block foreseen by council: the slim chance the District of West Vancouver and District of North Vancouver would be willing to chip in, especially when the DNV seems committed to rebuilding its smaller pool at the William Griffin Community Recreation Centre, which is just over one kilometre away.
"The district (of North Vancouver) is the lynchpin here. If you can't get them on board, it's not going to happen," Coun. Pam Bookham said to Sullivan.
Still, the pool users will get a fighting chance. The city has made similar arrangements with the Photographic Arts Society and the North Vancouver Museum and Archives for proposed relocations of Presentation House Gallery, and the museum.
Following the vote to keep the possibility of a 50-metre pool open, council voted to kick off the consultation for the rest of the still-unfunded Harry Jerome centre.
The entire new rec facility is expected to cost about $70 million, according a staff report. Allowing 350,000 square feet of private development on top would generate about $30 million.
Outside the meeting, swimmers applauded the small victory.
"Our objective was to get a resolution passed that would allow us to go forward and seek other funding, which we couldn't do if council was totally opposed to a 50-m pool . . . and we achieved it," Sullivan said.
Finding the rest of the support and money needed to get the job done would be difficult, Sullivan admitted.
"It all depends on whether we can find funding partners who can see the vision for the future that we see. It's a very tight deadline. It's going to be very difficult to meet that date, but I think if we make some progress and we've got meetings lined up, that council will be flexible," she said. "The decision to build a 50-m pool doesn't have to be made in the next four months. It has to be made before the shovels go in the ground."