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Council set to decide future of Kyabram pool

Having his say: Tongala police’s Senior Constable Tim Fraser was one of a handful of people to address the 90-strong crowd at the Tongala pool on Monday night.

Kyabram pool’s potential closure has a $2 million windfall attached to it for the development of a community facility.

Pool point: Independent candidate for the federal seat of Nicholls, Rob Priestly, addressed the crowd on Monday evening at Tongala. He also attended a meeting in Kyabram.

If the recommendation to close the Kyabram pool at the end of the 2024-25 swim season — along with the Rochester pool — is accepted by Campaspe Shire councillors at Wednesday night’s meeting the community will receive a $2.087 million injection of funds through the Township Facility Plan program.

The agenda report, which will be put to the council on Wednesday night, suggests that the total savings from closing five pools, along with the eventual closure of Kyabram and Rochester, would represent a five-year saving of $10.8 million.

And it appears that the community will have a significant say in how those funds are spent in their own community.

It could be the difference between the council voting in favour of finally shutting down the pools, which it has put off in 2016 and again in 2019, or finally accepting the recommendation and injecting this cash into the communities.

The report to the council recommends the plan for the allocation of these funds to a different town facility be commenced within three months of the pools’ closures and completed within 12 months.

Among several topics up for discussion by councillors is to make the land on which the pools are located, where it is owned by council, available to the community for the development of a town facility of some description.

The council report says “where possible the future use/disposal of these sites will be considered as part of Township Facility Plans”.

This means that the town will not only receive a cash windfall, from savings the council makes in operating costs, it could also end up with an opportunity to use the land on which the pools are located.

Wednesday night’s Campaspe Shire Council meeting will consider a recommendation to close all seven outdoor pools in the shire — five at the end of this summer and the remaining two at the end of the 2024-25 swim season.

The proposal has been met with a chorus of disgust from the communities concerned, although the “financial sweetener” has certainly pricked up the ears of some within the townships of Tongala, Stanhope, Rushworth, Colbinabbin and Lockington; the five outdoor pools Campaspe Shire councillors will consider decommissioning on Wednesday night.

Each of those pools has a dollar amount attached to its closure as part of the council recommendation to make available an amount of funds equivalent to the cost of running the pools for the next five years.

That represents $804,073 at Tongala, $803,055 at Lockington, $743,628 at Rushworth and $719,944 at Stanhope. The cost of running Colbinabbin pool for the next five years would be $421,918.

Campaspe Shire’s regular aquatic services reviews have been a constant source of debate between council officers and the councillors, who on the two previous occasions have managed to delay closing down the pools.

A recommendation was put to the council’s August 16, 2016 meeting for the pools to be decommissioned at the end of 2019.

But at the April 16, 2019 meeting the pools were thrown a lifeline and the council decided to extend the time frame until the end of 2021.

The future of the pools will again be a hot topic of discussion for councillors on Wednesday evening when the council will decide on the fate of the pools for a third time in the space of six years.

A report the to council says the communities of pools earmarked for decommissioning in 2019 were required to put a plan in place for their future operation.

If not the pools would be closed.

Six recommendations have been included in the January 19 meeting agenda, which was made public on Friday and immediately sent Facebook into meltdown.

Community groups were immediately circling the wagons to again take up the fight for the future of their pools.

The recommendation made to councillors is to avoid the “extensive” repair and capital infrastructure costs required to make the pools “fit for purpose” by closing them in three years.

There is one piece of good news among the doom and gloom for the user groups of the community swimming facilities — Echuca War Memorial Aquatic Centre (EWMAC) will be retained for operation by the council and a 10-year plan established for it to meet community demands.

The final recommendation to “allocate funding equivalent to five years of operational costs of those pools which are decommissioned” is recommended to be achieved through the Township Facility Plan process adopted at the council’s August meeting last year.

The report suggests that the pools earmarked for closure are “reaching the end of their useful life” and that pools are “no longer the hub of social activity it was for young people in years gone by”.

Council has considered disposing of the pools to community ownership in their current state, but the report suggests that operational, maintenance and renewal to a minimum industry standard is unachievable by the communities involved.