Future of Mittagong Pool to return to council debate

Swimming pools have been the talk of the town for some time.

Damage at Mittagong Pool after the June 2016 East Coast Low storm event needs to be repaired. Photo: WSC

Damage at Mittagong Pool after the June 2016 East Coast Low storm event needs to be repaired. Photo: WSC

Mittagong Pool has faced more than its share of trouble, with millions of dollars spent in upgrades to fix a slow leak, only for a major storm event to undermine to pool’s foundations months later and result in the complex’s indefinite closure.

The pool closed for repairs in late 2014 and re-opened in January 2016. The 2016 pool season had finished when the East Coast Low storm made the pool structurally unsound in June, meaning it could not open for the 2016/17 season. It remains closed until repairs begin in the next few months.

A council spokesman said the tender for repairs at Mittagong Pool would be discussed at the July 12 council meeting. “Based on approval being granted, we would anticipate repairs to start shortly thereafter, with August being the likely start date,” he said.

Meanwhile, council staff are working to develop a pool strategy that will encompass the whole region.

“This strategy will look at the future use of all council’s public swimming pools,” the spokesman said.

“The strategy is due for completion in the coming months, at which point the document will be presented to councillors for consideration.”

The shire’s pools are often discussed at council meetings, but Councillor Garry Turland has raised the issue several times and questioned whether an alternate approach to the repair of Mittagong Pool should be considered.

“I believe the community would be better served by having a single 50-metre facility that offers far more functionality to the rate payers and less financial burden on the community.”

-Jonathan Hatcher

In May, Cr Turland suggested closing some of the shire’s pools in order to sustain a re-developed, eight-lane pool at Mittagong.

At the time, mayor Ken Halstead said the suggestions were not supported by council.

However, community comment has called for further discussion about options available for pools in the shire.

This includes a letter from Highlands resident Jonathan Hatcher – a past president of the Southern Highlands Water Polo Association – sent to councillors, media and key community stakeholders, which put forward several suggestions.

Mr Hatcher said in his personal view, Mittagong and Bowral pools offered similar functions.

“Neither is great for running swimming carnivals, both are only six lanes. Neither of them can run state or national water polo events, not deep enough or wide enough,” his letter said.

“I believe the community would be better served by having a single 50-metre facility that offers far more functionality to the rate payers and less financial burden on the community.”

However, figures from council show to expand either Bowral or Mittagong Pool to be eight-lane, 50-metre long pools would result in an increase of overall running costs by about 25 to 33 per cent annually.

These figures take into account increases in electricity, water, gas and chemicals needed for an increase from six to eight lanes.

The cost to heat the pools at Bowral Swimming Centre, as each is connected to one heating system, exceeds $40,000 each year. The toddler pool, 25m pool and 50m pool have a combined volume of 1,747,330 litres, which cost $43,267.60 to heat in the 2016/17 year. The volume of the 25m and 50m pools at Mittagong equates to around 1,640,547 litres.

With so much debate surrounding the shire’s pools, councillor Ken Halstead previously reassured residents there had been no discussion about permanently closing any of the region’s pools.

Further discussion on the future of Mittagong Pool is expected at the July 12 council meeting.