Town funding will continue to flow to Smiths Falls' community pool, after Councillors agreed last night to an agreement with the pool's new managers.
The new agreement will limit the matching-funds the Smiths Falls Aquatic Recreation Centre, or the ARC, can access to $18,000, and require regular financial updates to council.
Despite conditions imposed on the continued funding, they were not enough to gain support from two of four councillors. Councillors John Maloney and Jay Brennan did not support the request.
Maloney says he couldn’t support funding for the pool without an improved long-term sustainability plan, which board members of the ARC admitted they had mostly copied from the Hub. "I would have liked to see a longer term business plan, so that way there’s a little bit more safeguards in place. This is what we’re going to try to achieve, this is the programming that we’re going to increase, what’s the cost to the customers – let’s look at it as an actual business." Maloney added, "I’ve personally supported the pool, but as a business person, I want to make sure they’re not going in to debt again. It’s basically a safeguard for them, as well as us.”
Councillor Jay Brennan did not support the continued funding either, saying that while he thinks the pool is beneficial, the town has other funding priorities, like accessibility for the town hall, Confederation Bridge that’s been closed for nearly a year, and funding for the hospital.
Councillor Dawn Quinn supported the funding but proposed the $18,000 cap, money that’s already been promised by Montague and Merrickville-Wolford Townships, explaining she feels the privately-owned pool shouldn’t rely on municipal support alone. "Right now we’ve given them the opportunity to move forward and to hopefully make this very successful and learn how to be sustainable," said Quinn. "I don’t want to see the pool close. I think it’s a great addition to our town. But they do, they do in my books, have to come back and show us what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, so they don’t get to a situation like they were in before.”
As council’s representative at the ARC, Lorraine Allen agreed to relay financial updates to her fellow Councillors. Mayor Shawn Pankow called the pool vital to the community, and Allen originally supported the full funding request without a cap. Councillor Chris Cummings said he had “no problem” with continuing the funding.
As part of the town's community grants spending budget, council had agreed to grant up to $44,000 to the former Hub as long as it was matched by other municipalities. The Smiths Falls Aquatic Recreation Centre, known as the ARC, took over running the pool at the Gallipeau Centre after the Hub declared insolvency in June.