FOSTER pool is the first pool in South Gippsland to have reached the critical ‘trigger points’. The ‘triggers’ were implemented by South Gippsland Shire Council as a measuring point to start a review of the five outdoor pools (Foster, Toora, Mirboo North, Korumburra and Poowong) and if they should be closed. The trigger measurement system helped pacify some of the pool committees and following the release of attendance figures – the Foster pool is now up for review. Last week the Foster Pool committee, a Section 86 committee of Council, was advised that the future of the pool is to be reviewed. Foster pool reached a trigger point when its attendance dropped by over 20 per cent over five years. The Foster pool committee president Lisa Barham-Lomax fronted council on Wednesday. She contends that council does not have sufficient grounds to close Foster pool, and the loss of the pool would hurt the community and not save council much at all. She said the trigger points unfairly targeted Foster. “No other pool is up for review,” she said on Wednesday. “The council is using a very one-dimensional measure to trigger a review of the future viability of the Foster pool. “The trigger was a 20 per cent drop in attendance over a five year period; for Foster a 20 per cent drop in utilisation represents quite a small number of patrons when compared to other communities. “For Foster, we only needed 1000 people to go to the beach instead or a couple of days of bad weather during the season. “For Foster, the trigger based on attendance is quite fine.” Ms Barham-Lomax said the Foster pool was yet to reach other critical trigger points including: budget, pool structure, equipment standards and maintenance costs. She said the Foster pool was “the second cheapest pool” in the municipality. Figures from five pools in South Gippsland showed Foster had cost $183,000 to run for five years, while Mirboo North was $251,000; SG Splash $238,000 and Poowong $237,000. These costs were not considered to grow significantly as the pool’s structure was rated as ‘fair’ and cost as little as $14,000 to maintain over six years. Again as comparison, Ms Barham-Lomax said the Mirboo North pool cost $393,000; Toora $311,000 and Korumburra $118,000. “Despite attendance figures that are trending upwards, from 4000 in 2010/11, which I am assured was a horrible season across all pools, to over 6000 for 2012/13, the Foster pool is the only pool that is being reviewed,” she said. “That’s from a population base of only 1600 people. “One of the biggest issues we’ve had with increasing attendance is the stipulation that the weather has to be over 23 degrees, which can mean there is a short season and the opening times are problematic.” Ms Barham-Lomax said while council was considering whether it could afford two pools within 20 minutes of each other, the Toora pool had expressly stated it could not cope with an influx of Foster residents and visitors. She urged council to consider the benefits the pool had to offer the people and Foster and district. A side note from committee member Ian Lyon noted that the estimated cost of decommissioning the Foster pool was “about the equivalent of running the pool for another 10 to 15 years”. “The cost of decommissioning the pool could also cost about the same amount as upgrading the Foster pool to Toora’s standard – with it partially enclosed, reliable heating and therefore longer season and it would likely be more popular with an ageing population,” Mr Lyons said.
Three pools over
While the council thanked the pool committee for providing some context behind the Foster pool, the council is still warning it has some ‘unpopular decisions’ ahead. “You’re looking at Foster pool, quite rightly as the committee, on its own,” Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks said. “We, as council have to consider six pools. “To break it down, there are 4500 people per pool, which is a staggering ratio compared to other municipalities. “Using the figures you’ve given us, every time someone walks through your doors, the real cost that the community puts in is $9 per person; Mirboo North’s is $9.50. “We simply cannot afford six pools and giving everyone a gift of $10 for every attendance.” Councillor Lorraine Brunt, who is also heavily involved in the Poowong pool committee, was equally blunt. “As you can tell, there is a thought in council that we are well and truly three pools over,” she said. There will be more discussion over the pools and pool committees at council’s meeting this Wednesday, October 23 at 2pm, when council votes on its delegations to these Section 86 committees.