THUNDER BAY – City councillors have been given a little more to ponder as they head into deliberations for the first budget of its term.
The public gallery at Thunder Bay city hall was packed on Thursday night, with the majority of those who came forward urging city council to reconsider the future of Dease Pool.
The pre-budget deputation meeting is the one chance for members of the public to come forward during the budget review process to openly share their opinions with councillors.
Of the 13 to speak at the meeting, seven of them were primarily focused on voicing their support for Dease Pool.
Council last month had voted to close the century-old outdoor pool.
Kateri Banning, who said she has spoken to a number of contractors and pool specialists, brought forward a proposal to build a smaller pool within the existing pool’s footprint while replacing the pool decking, addressing foundation issues and redo the retaining wall.
It would also renovate the change room building, and include hot water.
Banning said she has been given quotes that the cost to revitalize the pool could be $600,000, significantly lower than the figures previously provided by city administration of $1 million to repair the pool, $1.3 million for a new pool basin and $2.8 million for new change room facilities.
“The purpose of this plan here was to address every single issue that’s been brought forward,” Banning said.
Banning, who grew up in the Bethune and Brodie south side neighbourhood, said she was always in the water during the summer. Even in her early 20s, she would still use the pool.
“It was Dease that we chose to congregate at. I want more generations to have that,” Banning said, adding she has heard a number of stories from different people about their childhoods at the pool.
“It’s more than just a pool. It’s a hub of our community and you have to actually live in our community to see that and to feel that but it really, really is.”
Robert Rea, an area resident whose three-year-old son had watched swimmers and was anticipating being able to enjoy the pool starting next year, said his son cried when putting a bow on the fence.
“I live in the area and I’m exposed to just how much love the community has for the pool on a daily basis. Love for a venue that, based on the city’s own reports, has had little maintenance and is falling apart currently. Love for a venue that by the city’s own admission has not had the upgrade that other similar venues have enjoyed,” Rea said.
“Love for a venue that has been an integral part of a disadvantaged area for over 100 years. Dease Pool has survived based almost entirely on the community’s support, repaired with bubble gum fixes and reinforced with people’s positive experiences in the beloved cold water pool that has been there just as long as a lot of people’s homes in the area.”
Three other facilities or proposed projects that received attention were the Centennial Botanical Conservatory, Victoriaville Centre and a multi-use indoor turf facility.
Michael Veneziale, president of Soccer Northwest, urged council to go ahead with building a new artificial turf field at Chapples Park, which could then be covered with a dome at an estimated cost of $6.5 million. The 2016 collapse of The Sports Dome has left the Lakehead University Hanger and the repurposed bubble at Confederation College as the only two covered turf facilities in the city.
The proposed budget earmarks $5 million for an indoor turf facility, though the extent of what that money would pay for has not been disclosed.
“The numbers have been dropping in the past few years with no indoor facility and it has been with outdoor as well,” Veneziale said. “We’ve had to shorten seasons and cut numbers there as well.”