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Pool town hall to be ‘social event of the season’

Public engagements on pool replacement expected to restart this year after being stopped in 2019
(North Peace Leisure Pool)

Fort St. John city councillors want a public town hall about the North Peace Leisure Pool.

“I think that it’s time council hosted a town hall on who owns that pool, who operates the pool, why it’s in the condition it’s in, and talk about moving forward,” said Mayor Lori Ackerman at Monday’s council meeting. 

The pool opened in 1996 and is owned by the Peace River Regional District and operated by the City of Fort St. John, via the North Peace Leisure Pool Commission.

“The people who not only live in Fort St. John but also outside Fort St. John need to understand … it’s the one oddity in all of our recreational facilities,” Ackerman continued. 

“I think it’s an opportunity to get together. Usually the trade show is the social event of the season, we can make this one the social event of the season, have people come and get those facts so that as they move forward replacing this facility they’ve got that information.”

Councillors were responding to a complaint about the aging pool's condition that was posted to a social media chat forum on the weekend. Councillor Tony Zabinsky said he wants a town hall held “sooner than later,” noting it’s a “heated” issue.

“It blew up,” Zabinsky said of the posting. “They figure we own it, that’s the whole problem.”

Added Ackerman, “The regional district doesn’t take the brunt of it. Everyone thinks we own it.”

Discussions to replace the pool, now 25 years old and challenged by ongoing maintenance issues, are in their infancy stages. A regional replacement committee was recently formed including representatives from Fort St. John, Taylor, and the Peace River Regional District.

That committee meets today in Dawson Creek to get an update from Vancouver-based consultants HCMA Architecture on a first round of pre-pandemic public engagements done in 2018 before the project was put on pause in 2019.

The committee will also consider bringing a recommendation to the PRRD board to restart public engagements this spring and summer, including stakeholder meetings and open house events. 

A city-hosted town hall would be on top on those plans, and a date and time has yet to be set. Ackerman said a town hall wouldn’t be too technical, and that information could be put into public handouts similar to the city’s budget.

Councillor Trevor Bolin, who chairs the Pool Commission, said it’s about having a conversation with the public.

“I don’t think it’s a lecture. Let’s have a conversation,” Bolin said. “Let’s let them understand what we know and how we move forward.”

According to the public engagements done in 2018, the most commonly cited priorities for a future new pool were enhanced amenities such as a lazy river, indoor slides, a surf pool, and lane swimming. Other priorities included other rec amenities such as an indoor play area, climbing wall, jumpyard, fitness room, and indoor courts.

"Recreation and active living opportunities are important to the region and the people who live and work here," reads the April 12 report going to the pool replacement committee today.

"The public and stakeholders feel the current facility is not sufficient to meet the community’s needs now or in the future, and are generally supportive of a new bigger facility. There is general support that if a new facility is built that it should include both aquatic and recreation facilities."

Rough costs for a new pool facility have been previously estimated between $60 million to $100 million, depending on the scope of the project and types of amenities included. 

Read more below in the presentation below:

North Peace Leisure Pool 2022 Feasibility Study by AlaskaHighwayNews on Scribd

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