AN eleventh-hour approach has stopped Lake Macquarie City Council from taking over Valentine Hydrotherapy Pools for at least the short-term.
The council was last night set to vote on a recommendation to terminate the lease and take control of the community-run facility. Under the plan, the existing 25 metre, 15 metre and toddler pools would have been demolished and a 15m above-ground learn to swim pool would be built.
But a new Valentine Hydrotherapy Pools committee elected just eight days ago reached out to the council via a letter and speaking through public access at Monday night's council meeting to ask for time to reopen the pool without council stepping in. The council ultimately sided with the new committee.
The pool has been closed since March due to the coronavirus and is in need of urgent upgrades. Valentine Hydrotherapy Pools secretary Judith Wilson said the committee hoped to get the centre back open within a matter of weeks. She said they had already engaged an analyst and conducted various inspections at the site.
Councillor Christine Buckley's successful alternate motion noted the new committee's request for time to review pool operations and consider actions required to reopen the facility, and resolved for council to step in if the committee is unable to meet the conditions of the lease or address the facility's ongoing issues.
"I feel it's incumbent on us to give them that opportunity," Cr Buckley said. "It sounds like they've worked really hard in the short time they've been there. It sounds like they've got some good ideas."
The matter was debated for more than an hour with several amendments put up and lost. Some councillors were concerned the former committee had asked council to step in and run the pool and about the fact the issue had dragged on for several years.
"While I respect and applaud the new committee for wanting to take over, we haven't seen any real business plan, we haven't seen any real plan and numbers by which it could be made to work," Cr John Gilbert said in his failed amendment.
"We have a track record where it hasn't worked.
I think it's important that we allow the committee to do what they have to do, to see if they can maintain this important facility.Mayor Kay Fraser
"I think what we've got here in this amendment is the potential for the whole facility to be saved and the community to keep this facility online and keep it running into the future."
But the council decided to give the new committee a chance to keep the pool facility in community hands.
"This is a community facility, council owns the land but the community built this facility, they have a strong attachment to this facility and the new committee obviously has some funds and they have some expertise in the area, it would appear," Mayor Kay Fraser said.
"I think it's important that we allow the committee to do what they have to do, to see if they can maintain this important facility."
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