Pitt Meadows to re-study indoor pool

Council approves $2,000 to hire consultant to provide an overview of what to do next

The City of Pitt Meadows will spend up to $2,000 to hire a consultant to investigate whether or not to proceed with building an indoor pool.

Council approved the spending Tuesday to enlist Brian Johnston from Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants Ltd. (PERC) to provide a historical overview of past work done in Pitt Meadows regarding an aquatic facility and an update on similar work being done in the region to help plot the next steps.

The last study that investigated an indoor pool in Pitt Meadows was done in 2004, by PERC.

The cash to pay the consultant will come from the city’s Strategic Capital Reserve Fund.

“We need to put this to rest,” said Coun. Gwen O’Connell. “I think it’s easier to say no to something than look at it.”

Johnson has many years of experience and expertise in planning aquatic facilities. He recently worked with Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam to analyze outdoor aquatic infrastructure and the Township of Langley to assess the needs for an indoor aquatic facility in Aldergrove.

The city’s long-term capital plan anticipates constructing an indoor pool by 2017.

Couns. Janis Elkerton and Dave Murray opposed the spending, saying it was not appropriate given the current economic climate.

“I have concerns about spending $2,000 on doing a rehash of something that’s already been around since 1993,” said Elkerton, referring to another study on an indoor aquatic centre done in the 1990s.

“We are at a population of only 17,500. This is an expensive project to take on. I think we have to be very conservative about how we spend the money and put it on projects that are a priority versus the niceties.”

However, other councillors noted that the pool is an issue frequently brought up by residents.

“We want to have a meaningful conversation about it,” said Coun. Tracy Miyashita, adding that hiring a consultant doesn’t mean the city will be building a pool.

Mayor Deb Walters hopes the consultant will be able to clarify what the city should do next. Should Pitt Meadows proceed with a referendum? Apply for grants and is Pitt Meadows or Hammond the best location for an aquatic facility?

“I think it’s very good use of taxpayers dollars,” said Walters, echoing comments made by Coun. Bruce Bell.

After the meeting, Walters noted that the councillors who voted against hiring the consultant are heading to Niagara Falls next year for the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference.

Elkerton justified the planned trip to Ontario, saying the annual conferences allows her to make contacts and connections that ultimately benefit the city.

“You learn so much. But more than anything, you make the connections with people,” said Elkerton, adding she was able to drum up funds for dike improvements by reaching out to connections she made by attending another conference.

Next year’s conference will be the first FCM Coun. Murray attends.

“It’s something other councillors have been to and so has the mayor,” he said.

“It’s my first term as a councillor and I’ve never been to one before. I think it will help develop me as a councillor.”

The FCM conference will costs around $3,000 per councillor.

City chief administrative officer Jake Rudolph said council has a three-year budget allocation for conferences and training that funds the attendance for the mayor at FCM and councillors, once each term.

“Most often the FCM is held during the time Pitt Meadows Day occurs and so attendance at FCM is limited. In 2014, the FCM will not conflict with Pitt Meadows Day and will provide a relatively rare opportunity to attend this learning and networking conference,” Rudolph said.