Pool price makes a splash

A Lismore Council debate aimed at reducing the cost of entry to the Memorial Baths descended into farce on Tuesday night when the general manager pointed out that any proposed changes would have to be advertised for 28 days. A new fee structure would have to be put forward and, given that Council doesn’t sit in January, the first opportunity they would have to approve the changes wouldn’t be until the February meeting when the season is coming to a close.

“That throws a spanner into the works,” Cr Neil Marks, who had put forward a suggestion to review all season pass prices at their December meeting, said. “It’s not the first time a council has been stifled by bureaucracy and it probably won’t be the last… It feels a bit like an episode of Yes Minister.”

A motion had been put before Council to reintroduce the six-month pass that was scrapped at the beginning of the season, but in public access time Lismore resident Glen Maxwell told Council their intention to re-introduce the six-month pass at a cost of $490 for a family was “insulting”.

“You have deliberately side-stepped the issue. The six-month pass was unpopular at $374 (last year). Why do you think it will sell at $490 which is 31% higher? The issue is price. You have completely missed the point,” he said. “Your prices are not even in line with your own pricing policy, which in relation to pools states, ‘Fees are to be based on prices charged by similar providers in order to ensure that the pools remain commercially viable.’

“Perhaps the greatest misconception is that higher prices lead to greater revenue. A number of councillors have pointed to the running costs and the debt as a reason for the high prices. Let’s look at some damning statistics that your accountants just don’t seem to get. Lismore has a population of 40,000 and the Memorial Baths have sold a grand total of three family (nine-month season) passes at $735. That’s a revenue of just $2205,” Mr Maxwell said.

“By comparison, Kyogle has sold over 100 family season passes (at a cost of $210) giving them a revenue of over $21,000.

"Let’s look at Alstonville; they have a much smaller population than Lismore yet they are a great comparison because their pool is heated and their season pass is for eight-and-a-half months. Alstonville has sold 140 family passes. Let’s do the maths. 140 passes at $280 is $39,000 in revenue.”

Mr Maxwell’s logic struck a chord with councillors who were falling over themselves to find a quick, workable solution.

Cr Gianpiero Battista argued that Lismore’s prices be in accordance with the Alstonville prices, plus 10%. Cr Graham Meineke made the point that even if you allowed 60 cents per kilometre, you could drive from Lismore to Alstonville for a swim five days a week and still come out in front.

Cr John Chant suggested that prices revert back to the 2008/09 fee structure.

The debate, with various amendments and foreshadowed motions, went on for about 45 minutes without finding an acceptable solution.

In the end Cr David Yarnall’s motion that had been rejected earlier was put up again as the only way to move the issue forward. The motion was to reintroduce the six-month passes (at a cost of $162 for individuals and $491 for a family) and instruct staff to prepare a detailed report of the usage of the Memorial Baths and a price comparison with similar facilities. There will also be a marketing campaign for Lismore’s two main pools, the Memorial Baths and the Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre.

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