Local politicians and regional district staff are hoping for smoother sailing with recreation in the Lower Similkameen in 2019.
George Bush, director for Area B (Cawston), said after a tumultuous year with recreation things are moving “in the right direction now.”
In the spring, longtime facilities manager Karl Donoghue along with almost all of the recreation commission volunteers resigned. Part of the reason, former chair of the advisory committee, Charlene Cowling said was because Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen staff held a meeting where the future employment of Donoghue was discussed without proper notification or minutes provided.
Donoghue worked as the facilities manager for more than 27 years.
Since then the commission has struggled to find members. It operated for the remainder of the year with only the two volunteers on it before the major shakeup.
Recently the board of the RDOS appointed Richard Oostra, Duncan Baynes, Dave Cursons, Robert Proctor and Tim Austin to the commission.
Recreation has some big plans for 2019 including the possibility of revamping the outdoor pool in Keremeos.
Justin Shuttleworth, parks and facilities co-ordinator, said a $515,000 grant is being submitted and if approved will be used to almost entirely overhaul the outdoor pool. The total price tag for the project is about $654,000.
“Improvements needs to be made to meet Interior Health standards. Currently a new pool isn’t in the horizon. With this project we hope to get another 15 to 20 years out of the existing pool,” he said.
Shuttleworth said improvements are “critical” to keeping pool functional and that there was not enough money in reserves to apply for a pool replacement through the grant.
Included in the upgrades would be the addition of a commercial liner, which means the pump and piping al needs to be replaced along with the concrete.
The grant includes provincial and federal money and would pay for almost 75 per cent of the project. Keremeos, Area B and Area G would need to come up with the rest approximately $139,000.
Shuttleworth said the money would come from reserves. At this time the pool has approximately $145,000 in reserves.
A needs assessment survey was done in 2017 which showed about 60 per cent of those who answered wanted an indoor pool.
Since those results have come in Bush has questioned the ability of the community being able to afford an indoor pool while other larger municipalities cannot.
“I can’t see the community going for an indoor pool. We were lucky to get a fire truck for a quarter of the price (of what a pool would cost). I just can’t see it happening with our limited tax base and we have no large industry here. It’s not just about the cost to build it, it’s operating. It would cost a lot more to operate,” Bush said.
Bush said if the grant is approved and the work done on the pool, it will give the community time to figure out what it wants next and fundraising and reserves can be set aside.
“The main thing is that we still have a swimming pool in the summertime where kids can come and learn to swim. That’s very important for safety because we have the river,” he said.
Other upgrades expected to happen in 2019 include paving the recreation centre parking lot and new signage.
Bush noted he’s heard positive things from the community about the new staff and the programs being offered.
“The regional district is working more with programs and wanting to see people use the facilities we have. That’s quite popular and I think the programs will continue to expand,” he said.
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