How much are you willing to pay for a new regional pool in the North Peace?
Fifty million? Seventy-five million?
Some preliminary estimates have put the cost upwards of $100 million.
And just how much taxpayers in the community of Taylor can afford to pay for a new pool and rec complex was among the many topics covered at an all candidates forum Tuesday night at the community hall.
“The sky is the limit; $50 million, $75 million, tell me when to stop,” said Gordon Davies, one of five candidates running for district council in the Oct. 15 election. “It’s unaffordable for most communities to go on their own so therefore it requires to be a North Peace initiative, and it will be required to go to referendum.”
The North Peace Leisure Pool in Fort St. John opened in 1996, but 26 years later is becoming more and more costly to fix and maintain. A regional steering committee made up of politicians from Fort St. John, Taylor, and the Peace River Regional District has been studying its possible replacement.
“It’s a big project and it’s an expensive project,” said incumbent councillor Michelle Turnbull, a member of the steering committee, and who is seeking a second term after she was first elected in 2018.
"It's not something I think that the people of Taylor would really want to spend money on themselves being here because it's extremely expensive," she added, noting the biggest question to be answered about a possible referendum would be the impact to local taxes.
Still, Turnbull said a new complex is needed and would draw more people, including professionals like doctors and dentists, to the area.
"I absolutely support a new facility in town," she said. “I think it’s beneficial to all."
Mayoral candidate Brent Taillefer, currently vice-chair of the replacement pool committee, noted that a referendum to build the current leisure pool failed in Taylor.
“As for building a new one…we don’t have enough information yet,” he said. “My job there is to have that information and bring it back…I’m there listening and learning and bringing that back to help educate you.”
Taylor currently operates its own seasonal pool inside the district curling rink during summer, which the candidates supported continuing.
“Our pool here, absolutely we need it,” said Taillefer. “The school district here, every class including preschool uses it to learn and to do lessons,” he said. “We need kids to learn to swim. It’s a life skill.”
It costs about $100,000 a year to maintain and staff the seasonal pool, though the district has been challenged the last five years hiring trained lifeguards. This year's planned opening was pushed to 2023 due to staff shortages, a situation that candidates noted is a Canada-wide problem.
“I have fully supported the pool here and still do as long as we can keep it going,” said long-time incumbent councillor Betty Ponto. “As far as the one in town, my vote would be private to myself quite personally, but being on council I would be listening to the residents and what they want, because all of us are going to the ones that are going to be paying for it over time.”
Council candidate Murray Giesbrecht suggested building a community spray park.
“I’m willing to support Fort St. John I think in a large pool but I’d like to also see some type of water park or something in Taylor in the future,” he said. “Maybe not something quite as expensive and extravagant as a full-size pool but something for the kids in the hot summer.”
Council candidate Desirae Graziano is supportive of a new regional pool but said Taylor's seasonal pool was a needed facility for kids, adults, and seniors in the community.
“Maybe there’s a way of doing programs where we can train our own lifeguards,” she said. “Maybe there is a way for Taylor to team up with Fort St. John to have additional space for training and for lessons.”
Mayoral candidate Peggy Alexander said she favoured consultation on a new pool, and bringing the information to referendum. She also supported maintaining and providing the local seasonal pool, saying “it’s very, very important.”
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