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Nelson pool repairs pegged at $4.5 million

The Nelson aquatic centre needs another $4.5 million in upgrades, but staff are trying to figure out how best to pay for it. - Nelson Star file photo
The Nelson aquatic centre needs another $4.5 million in upgrades, but staff are trying to figure out how best to pay for it.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

On the heels of receiving a new $600,000 ceiling, Nelson’s aquatic centre may be in line for more major upgrades.

Even before some ceiling tiles collapsed last year, resulting in a closure of over six months, the recreation commission identified many other deficiencies in the nearly 40-year-old building.

Now regional district staff are trying to figure out how best to pay for the upgrades, which are expected to cost up to $4.5 million.

“We are trying to make sure we carry this out in the best interest of the community from a usage point of view and also a tax burden point of view,” rec commission chair Ramona Faust told 103.5 The Bridge. “There is a list of things that needs to be done to preserve the integrity of the building and functionality of the equipment.”

Faust said they hired an architect as well as electrical and mechanical firms, who found numerous problems with the building, including corrosion and a heating and ventilation system on its last legs. “There’s quite an exhaustive list,” Faust said. “Numerous upgrades or repairs [are required] in the facility’s workings.”

Any cracks in the concrete walls or pool are also expected to be fixed. (Before its partial collapse, the ceiling hadn’t been identified as a priority.)

Faust said while it may surprise some that so much remains to be done after last year’s closure and less than a decade after the new arena opened, not everything was attended to at those times. Other problems are just the sign of an aging and well-used facility.

She added the fixes would “definitely” be paid for through borrowing, but the repayment period hasn’t been determined, despite a motion last month to do it over 10 years. If it takes place over a shorter period, the project would not be subject to a counter-petition process, whereas it would be if strung out over a longer time.

Once financing is in place, the work is expected to be done next year, preferably in summer when the facility is less busy and it wouldn’t interfere with swim programs, Faust said.

She said when she joined the commission, the building had no reserve funds, and any money since socked away went to the emergency ceiling fix. “Last year we had to unfortunately react to something that wasn’t in budget. We’re trying to head off any more unnecessary closures because of emergencies.”

Chaos and the complex

Faust hoped repairs now scheduled for 2015 would have been completed sooner, but says the rec complex “has had a bit of a hard go” the last five years.

She says former recreation manager Bernie Van Hooft told them several years ago the building, particularly the aquatic centre, needed $3 million worth of work.

Van Hooft resigned in 2011 and was replaced by Eric Bientjes, who stayed less than a year. Since then regional district community services manager Joe Chirico has been supervising the rec complex, but Faust notes he has many other duties.

The commission was also involved in planning for the outdoor skate park, which was going to be built next to the complex, but unexpected costs made the site prohibitive. In the fall of 2012, unionized staff at the complex went on strike for two weeks — and a few months later, a portion of the pool ceiling fell in. That required a six-month shutdown and over $600,000 in repairs. Consequently, other outstanding work was put off.

“It’s been pretty chaotic,” Faust says. “I hoped we would be doing this sooner but the way things worked out at that complex it’s been quite a roller coaster.”

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