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In troubled waters: Rate hike a possibility to help keep struggling pools afloat

Bega Valley Shire Council's manager of leisure and recreation John Grady, mayor Kristy McBain, and aquatic and leisure facilities coordinator Nicholas Hoynes.
Bega Valley Shire Council's manager of leisure and recreation John Grady, mayor Kristy McBain, and aquatic and leisure facilities coordinator Nicholas Hoynes.

With council unable to afford crucial public swimming pool operating and maintenance costs, a one-off increase in rates may be on the cards.

Both Bega and Cobargo pools require work over the next 10 years, and general council funds will not be enough to cover the necessary costs.

In 2016 council sought the services of Otium Planning Group to conduct a review of local pools, which led to the adoption in late 2017 of a goal to maintain the current pools in Bega, Cobargo, Candelo, Eden, Pambula and Bemboka at "modern standards".

Bega Valley Shire Council's aquatic and leisure facilities coordinator, Nicholas Hoynes, said council currently spends $1.38million on pools annually, along with an average of $218,000 per year on maintenance.

With the cost of reaching council's goal estimated at over $2million per year, council's general manager Leanne Barnes said a funding strategy is needed ahead of the next financial year's budget.

Councils across the state are also finding it difficult to keep up with the cost of upgrading ageing swimming pools, and Ms Barnes said community feedback on the issue will be the first step.

Public opinion will soon be sought on the freshly released Swimming Pool Strategy Discussion paper, along with information sessions in the six towns with public pools, and the creation of a rates calculator will all be part of the consultation process, Ms Barnes said.

Councillors will then vote on a strategy at their November 20 meeting.

Ms Barnes said on Wednesday an application for a special rate variation above the rate peg is a serious option in helping keep the pools at a standard the community expects.

Shifting money from other assets and services from council's general fund and state and federal grants, community fundraising, and loans "similar to what we've done with the airport", are also options, she said.

The discussion paper states the option for increased pool fees are likely to be "counterproductive", and would "render pools inaccessible by cost".

Mr Hoynes said modelling has been used in preparing the document, and used the examples of pools in Adelong and Grenfell in NSW, and Bridgetown in Western Australia, as examples of effective modern design.

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This story In troubled waters: Rate hike a possibility to help keep struggling pools afloat first appeared on Bega District News.

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