At the April Clarence Valley council (CVC) meeting, councillors effectively put an end to further development of the Grafton Pool Master Plan; at last week’s May 26 CVC meeting, a majority of councillors resuscitated the plan, which once again includes the contentious dive pool.
Following the April meeting, CVC’s general manager said the master plan was “dead in the water”, as a result of councillors Baker, Novak, Clancy, Toms and Ellem voting against a motion to continue with the master plan.
The five councillors were opposed to budgeting $600,000 to develop the detailed plan and/or the inclusion of a dive pool, which has an estimated cost of $1.75million.
Effectively, the outcome of the April vote meant that the master plan, which had been under development since June 2016, could not progress any further.
However, at the May meeting, all councillors except Crs Novak and Clancy, supported a rescission motion moved by Crs Kingsley, Williamson and Baker.
Subsequently, Crs Kingsley, Lysaught, Baker, Ellem, Williamson and Simmons voted in favour of allocating “$600,000 for the development of the detailed design documentation for the Grafton Pool Masterplan in the draft 2020/21 capital works program, which is to be incorporated into Council’s Draft 2020/21 Budget”.
“A new purpose built diving pool” will now be included “in the facility plan” and “the price estimate for a new purpose built diving pool and associated infrastructure” will be noted.
Councillors also supported investigating, “as part of the detailed design scope, the required facility changes and the capital and operational cost impacts of including a low height diving board within the 50m pool, with the outcomes reported back as part of a project status report”.
Cr Jason Kingsley said he had received “input … from youth in the valley” that “tells me we should keep the [dive pool]”.
“Just remember the youth in our community,” he said.
“We don’t have much away from the beaches for our youth – we need more facilities for our youth and this could be something very special.”
Councillor Greg Clancy said, “I don’t think we should be spending large amounts of money at this stage.
“I think these projects should be put on hold during this time … we don’t have the support of the community to spend large amounts of money at the moment.”
Cr Andrew Baker said, “I’ve been convinced to change my mind since last month.
“I’ve seen how the state and federal governments throw money at things I wouldn’t, [so I’m] … happy to support something [the plan’s development] that we’ve been doing for some time.”
Cr Karen toms said she was in “two minds”.
She agreed that the “pool needs revamping; but what I have trouble with is the $20million [estimated construction cost]”.
Cr Toms was also wary of budgeting $600,000 for detailed plans that were originally estimated to cost $1.3million.
“That’s a lot of maybes,” she said.
“It’s too grand … we still have other pools we are not going to close down … I’ve got a sinking feeling in my gut and we say we are not going to pay for it, then hear about pork-barrelling – it’s not Santa Claus it’s taxpayers’ money.”
Cr Peter Ellem said he had taken a “backflip dive on this one”.
“I did have concerns regarding costings but, taking on Cr Kingsley’s opening statement that it was a do nothing [result at the April meeting] after doing a lot of planning, I support the concept of getting it shovel ready,” he said.
Cr Ellem also took on board the feedback received from the valley’s youth, however, he said he would “never support any major borrowings, but will welcome any federal or state largess”.
Councillor Deborak Novak said she “could never justify spending” the money on the pool master plan; “I’d rather spend it on jobs for young people”.
“This is about what we can afford,” she said.
“At this time we need to be cautious … even if it’s just for three months.”
Cr Jim Simmons said he was “concerned about a few things said” during debate.
“First thing, the council is not spending $20million on a pool or anything else,” he said.
“It’s only possible with federal or state funding for the project.
“As far as I know the council is not in financial trouble.
“There’s no suggestion of the council getting into trouble by adopting the proposed design documentation.”
Cr Richie Williamson said, “We are not even spending $600,000 at this point”.
“[The motion] just enables us to put it in the budget,” he said.
The outcome of the councillors’ decision, regarding its inclusion in CVC’s 2020/21 budget and capital works program will be “considered by Council for formal adoption at the 23 June 2020 Council
meeting, noting the impact on the NET RESULT General Fund surplus being a reduction of $600,000”.