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Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District gets ready for new pool referendum

Project might be delayed without the approval of all regional areas
The Echo 67 Aquatic Centre is nearing the end of its service life, and many people in Port Alberni want to see a new pool. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) is getting ready for a referendum on a new pool, but the project might be scrapped if not all regional areas in the Alberni Valley agree to support it.

The pool was discussed during the most recent board of directors meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 28, as architects with HCMA Architecture + Design brought forward the results from the latest round of public engagement on the pool.

A total of 1,074 people responded to a survey, which was open from October to December last year, that asked residents of the ACRD what kind of aquatic centre they would like to see. The majority of the respondents (70 percent) lived within the City of Port Alberni, with residents in Beaver Creek, Sproat Lake and Cherry Creek each contributing just under 10 percent of responses.

According to architect John Buttery, the most popular result for an aquatic centre was a 260-square metre wave pool (30 percent larger than the existing pool), as well as a 25-metre, six-lane lap pool and a hot tub, slide, fitness space, sauna, multi-purpose room and steam room.

“This combination of aquatic centre components does align with the feedback received from both phases of public engagement and we recommend moving forward to the next stage of this study with this combination of aquatic facility components,” said Buttery.

Architects will now develop a “high-level concept design” and cost estimate, which will be presented to the ACRD board in a final report.

But before a location and design can be chosen, CAO Daniel Sailland says the ACRD needs to have a service plan and governance structure that shows how the cost of the pool will be apportioned between each different regional area.

The next steps in the pool study will include “at least two referendums,” said Sailland—one asking regional district residents if they want to be a part of the service, and then another referendum once a service plan is chosen.

“It’s likely slower than we’d like to be moving, but these are necessary steps,” said Sailland. “We heard loud and clear that no individual area wants to be part of a service if they’re forced into it. They want to know that their community has a vote.”

Sailland warned that the building of a pool probably won’t begin until 2026.

Sharie Minions, Port Alberni mayor and ACRD director, was not happy to hear that areas might be able to opt out of the service and said she would be opposed to any payment plan that does not include the whole Alberni Valley. It’s not fair for city taxpayers alone to pay for something that the entire region enjoys, she added.

“From my perspective, that is not the point of a regional service,” said Minions. “When we build a service that is for the use of the entire area, it’s not reasonable to say, ‘We’re not going to pay and we’ll just pay more at the door.’ It’s not equitable for a service we all have access to.”

But Beaver Creek director Susan Roth reiterated her desire for a referendum, pointing out that only about three percent of the Beaver Creek population responded to the recent public survey.

“I want everything to go forward to the people,” she said. “The most important thing to me is that there’s a proper referendum ballot.”

The board agreed on Wednesday to proceed to the next stages of the pool project, including a referendum, but also agreed that the project will be put on hold if not every region opts into the plan.

Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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