The city dove head first into a debate to help keep Marion Aquatics afloat for the next three years.
Despite the motion passing 6-2 after a recorded vote, it didn't appear to be an easy sell. Councillors Charlene Miller and Terra Lennox-Zepp were opposed to the request.
While most stressed a need to keep the facility open, there were two main points of contention. Firstly, the city will fork over $143,000 annually for three years starting July 1. The current operators, the Sisters of the Presentation, are looking to retire and have plans to shutter operations in June if a partner is not found. This comes in the wake of Rivier Academy’s exit from the facility at 1405 Bishop Pascal Place.
While a deal to keep the Sisters as partners is said to be in the works, some councillors had reservations about handing over money without a transfer of ownership in place.
“If this sale doesn’t go ahead … for whatever reason … if it doesn’t, there is no motion here to deal with that … it locks us into that pool for three years,” Coun. Ted Zurakowski said.
Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp also wanted protection in place and did not want to “hand out money without oversight.” She wanted to ensure certain terms and conditions were met before a deal was struck.
Both wanted the final funding agreement to come back to council for approval before it went ahead.
The other point of contention stemmed from a large number of users coming in from the surrounding rural municipalities. Some councillors wanted help from the RMs to foot the bill.
Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick made note how a number of the facilities users come in from the surrounding rural municipalities and perhaps it was time to "approach the RMs to start partnering with our facilities."
He made mention how the RMs have had little to no cut in government funding over the past two years, while cities have been saddled with more costs.
"The city got cut, cut, cut and we are providing and the tax payers are tired of continuing to pay, pay, pay. Fair is fair," he said. "Maybe we need to start saying, let's talk with the RMs and say … can you help us so that your residents have a swimming pool."
But Mayor Greg Dionne said asking the RMs to pay was never going to happen. He said cities all across the province have the same problem and are working to lobby the government for a solution.
“Unless someone tells them they have to pay, they are not going to volunteer to increase their taxes,” he said. “I am concerned we are holding this one up for ransom to see if we can get the bigger picture, because we are going to lose. If we don’t help fund [the pool], it will close.”
Speaking with the media after the meeting, Dionne was happy with the night's result. He said residents have made it clear they want and need of a new aquatic centre.
He said three years of financial assistance was not much to ask, as the Sisters, for 30 years, paid for the pool's operation out of their own pocket.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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