City looks at closing Scona Pool permanently

City administration is recommending council close Edmonton’s oldest community pool, with local users bracing themselves for yet another round of defending their beloved facility.

According to a report being presented to council’s executive committee on Aug. 24, the 65-year-old Scona Pool has “significant system failures,” “serious deterioration,” and “ongoing maintenance needs” that are cost prohibitive.

In June 2015, city council discussed a threshold for permanent facility closure would be “upon a significant system failure.”

Since 2015, the pool has required more than $1 million in maintenance and repairs, the city report said.

On June 29 this year, the city says a “system failure occurred” when the pool’s heat exchanger started leaking and had to be shut down, impacting pool water flow, the chlorine feed, and the boiler and steam distribution for the facility.

“Scona Pool has exceeded its lifespan and has reached the point where the building envelope and mechanical systems are experiencing significant failures,” said Pascale Ladouceur, city branch manager for infrastructure design and planning.

“To keep this 65-year-old facility operating safely would require a sizable amount of time, money and additional resources,” Ladouceur added in a statement.

Projected costs to extend the facility’s lifespan by five to 10 years are pegged by the city at a minimum of $6 million.

Recently, a safety fence has been installed along one side of the facility to protect people from falling bricks.

The city report says the condition of the pool has been “closely monitored” for several years.

“The function of the facility is inadequate, with extensive deficiencies impacting operations, accessibility, inclusivity and user experience,” it adds.

“The condition of Scona Pool is such that there has been a high probability of multiple system failures, including the structural, mechanical, and electrical systems, for many years.”

‘A HUGE WASTE OF TIME’

“People that use the pool realize it’s old, it’s end of life, and they’re not expecting it to be a modern, up-to-date, fancy facility,” said Kim Clegg, Queen Alexandra Community League director of planning and development.

The swimming pool was built in 1957, five years after neighbouring Strathcona High School was built.

In 1989, the city switched from operating the facility to contracting it out. River City Recreation Inc., has since operated the community pool since September 2009.

River City has managed to maintain the pool’s temperature by using hot tap water, something the city says is unsustainable once winter begins and the added stress on hot water heaters.

“It seems to me like they’re kinda choking themselves on their own bureaucracy because all they (the city) need to do is replace this one thing, and it’s fine,” Clegg added.

The city says a new heat exchange for the pool could cost up to $40,000 to buy and install, but if replaced, it would be obligated to get the rest of the building back in working order.

“I mean, the pool is old, and we know that it’s going to be (like that),” Clegg told CTV News Edmonton. “We just want to string it along until we have a new facility.”

That is the plan community leaders have fought for repeatedly in the last decade when city staff have suggested closing Scona Pool to save money.

The replacement Rollie Miles Recreation Centre is being designed by the city, but is not yet funded.

Clegg says the community is tired of convincing council how valuable the pool is to not just area residents, but also students attending Strathcona High School.

“To have to go back and defend it, again and again, is utterly maddening,” Clegg said. “It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s a huge waste of time.”

Should the city decide to close the pool, it would give the contractor 30 days’ notice and work to accommodate all affected groups, Strathcona High School athletic teams, and pool users at other facilities.

According to the city, there are three other municipal pools within five kilometres or a 15-minute drive of Scona Pool, including Bonnie Doon Leisure Centre, Confederation Leisure Centre, and Kinsmen Sports Centre.

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