Heated feelings over winter pool closure

Linda Munro from Leycester, a regular swimmer at the Lismore Memorial Baths, is angry at Lismore City Councils decision to close the 50m heated pool during winter.

Avid swimmer Linda Munro finds it hard to believe that Lismore City Council is going close the 50-metre pool at the Memorial Baths during winter, less than 18 months after the $9.6 million facility opened.

As part of Councils plan, the 25m pool will remain open for three hours in the morning and afternoon during winter, but will be closed on weekends.

Linda, who has a condition which effects her mobility, swims at least twice a week to keep her muscles functioning properly. However, due to her restricted movement, she needs the disability ramp at the 50m heated pool to get in and out of the water.

Theres been no community consultation whatsoever, said Linda. We were told during construction it was going to be a year-round, state-of-the-art facility for residents and tourists. Now theyre closing the 50m pool and Im unable to use the 25m pool without a ramp.

Lismore City Councils executive director of development and governance, Lindsay Walker, said Council was aware of the access issue and was currently investigating devices that would allow people with limited mobility to use the 25m pool.

He said the disability ramp itself was very rare and Council had made a conscious decision to include it in the design.

Mr Walker said closing the 50m pool was the most logical and economical option.

When the Memorial Baths opened, Council trialled leaving it open for the full year to determine what patronage there was, because we had no way of knowing who we would attract, Mr Walker said. We kept accurate records of patronage and have realised that over that three-month period in winter there is very limited usage, and its very expensive to keep the 50m pool open due to high heating costs. We believe this plan strikes a genuine balance a pool is still open, people are still getting the facilities they want and were saving the community money.

Mr Walker said people who needed to train for upcoming events (like the Lismore Masters Games in September) could just as easily use the 25m pool.

We dont see it as a problem they (swimmers) just do more turns, he said. Its very common for people to train in 25m pools.

Linda said she wanted to know why Lismore City Council is planning to build a pool as part of the Goonellabah Leisure Centre if it cant afford to keep the downtown pool open during winter.

If they werent trying to build another facility in Goonellabah, Council could afford to keep the 50m pool at the Baths open, Linda said. They need to do a big advertising blitz and promote the Baths as a year-round heated facility then they could attract people from Goonellabah. I think its a bit rich to judge patronage on one winter when the pools been so poorly promoted.

However, Mr Walker said the Goonellabah Leisure Centre was designed for a different demographic than the Baths.

The Goonellabah leisure water proposal will provide facilities for families that are not available at the Memorial Baths, Mr Walker said. The two facilities cater for an entirely different sector of the community and are not designed to compete with one another for patronage. In addition, the facilities at Goonellabah will be designed as indoor, and the heating and running costs during winter will be markedly reduced.

The Memorial Baths 50m heated pool will be closed in June, July and August. The 25m pool will remain open from 6-9am and 4-7pm Monday to Friday. It will be closed on weekends.

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