Nelson aquatic centre patrons aren’t the only swimmers holding their breath regarding the halt to the pool renovation project after the Regional District of Central Kootenay rejected all the bids.
CUPE local 2262 employees at the facility were expected to be laid off with the initial closure beginning on May 2 and some have already made other plans.
However, the aquatic centre will remain open until a bid has been chosen for a contract that has yet to be put back out to tender. While continuing to be employed is good news, there’s no way of knowing how long aquatic staff can continue to tread the waters of an uncertain employment period.
Last week, the regional district announced a report reviewing the project and bids which was to be presented to the recreation commission on Monday has been delayed.
“It’s very complicated,” said Joe Chirico, the regional district’s community services manager. “It’s not a clear process like building a house.”
Alternative solutions still need to be approved by other authorities like Interior Health which he said “has lots of approval power”. The report is now expected to be presented to the commission on May 4.
This also means a longer wait for the 30 aquatic centre employees, several of which are part-time. While they’re currently employed, it remains uncertain when they will be laid off or reassigned, based on seniority, to work in positions for which they are qualified. Chirico said there are 60 CUPE members in this bargaining unit.
Chirico said they are dealing with employees individually and have met with CUPE “a number of times”, and have been cooperating with the union.
“We’re all clear on the process,” he said. Chirico conceded the situation is difficult but added they have a plan to work through it with the employees.
The regional district has affirmed there will be an eight month closure as the renovations and repairs are “critical.” The question is when it will begin.
Chirico said that although some people are happy with the delay to the temporary facility closure, there are no guarantees the pool will remain open. He said if something should break or need immediate repair, the facility could have to shut down with or without an accepted bid.
Chirico also noted that while facility drop-in visits have remained mostly unchanged from this time last year, the membership usage is down six percent.
“We see it as a significant decrease, but expected,” he said, adding they also expect it to be busy again when it reopens after the renovations are complete.
CUPE local 2262 president Leford Lafayette could not be reached for comment. Union members include fitness technicians, lifeguards, aquafit and swimming instructors, as well as maintenance, custodians, customer service reps, and child minders.