Council passes motion to close pool at end of season
ULMARRA Pool users have the tiniest window to ensure they keep their pool open beyond the end of this summer season.
Cr Andrew Baker succeeded in having an amendment added to a motion calling for the closing of the pool at the end of this swimming season, which gave the pool "one last gasp" of hope.
His amendment called for the entry cost to the pool be dropped to $1 in 2017 and the number of entries recorded for report back to the council.
"There is an intention for council to continue to monitor this," Cr Baker said.
"It is an indication to the community to come back with a response that there is a much increased usage of the pool, because the cost involved.
"They wanted to put the price to start to cover the gap, but we'll put it down to encourage everybody to rush in there every day for $1 so the costs won't be an issue.
"This for me should probably be the last gasp. There's nothing in this that should stop the community developing up a strategy. They've been invited to do it so many times."
Cr Baker said it appeared the level of support in the community for the pool had dropped.
He said a meeting two years ago attracted about 170 people, but the attendances at two meetings this year had dropped right away.
"We made it quite clear we were serious, but we didn't leave it at that," Cr Baker said.
"We made it clear they needed to come back with an option for council. They needed to help themselves just a bit. We helped them, but they needed to do a bit.
"The upshot is apart from suggestion that things will come good one day, we've got nothing."
But Cr Peter Ellem launched a passionate defence of the pool, saying the community was just asking for 12 months grace to come up with a plan.
He said he had stopped at the pool recently and saw several families using the pool under the new $18,000 shade paid for by a government grant.
"The pool was built by community. It is one of few public facilities Ulmarra has," Cr Ellem said.
He said Cr Baker's amendment gave the community no real chance to save the pool.
"To put this officers recommendation with additions might give some people the impression a chance of keeping it," he said.
"But in reality it is so final ... we just haven't booked the bulldozer to do the job."
He said it was a bad look for the council to be shutting down a facility when the community was battling to keep it open.
"We should support them," he said.
Cr Richie Williamson said it was with sadness he was supporting the motion to close the pool.
"If there is a sustainable long-term plan that we are not aware of here that is brought to the table, I can't speak on behalf of anyone else in the room, but I am willing to look at a sustainable plan," he said.
"If we are to find substantial financial savings this year of $9.7 million there's some very tough decisions to be made in February."
Cr Williamson said the report to council recommending closure said there were other costs beyond the $80,000 cost to run the pool.
"There does need to be some tough decisions," he said. "This is not just a sad decision, but a tough decision.
"But there are tougher decisions than this one here in the next six months of the life of this council."
He said Cr Baker's "last gasp" option gave the community a chance to come up with a plan, but he feared there may not be one.
Cr Greg Clancy said the councillors were ill-treating the Ulmarra community.
"We shouldn't be treating the Ulmarra people the way we're treating them," he said.
"We shouldn't be saying you do all the homework, you come up with all the ideas.
"We should be helping them."
Cr Clancy said he had concerns there was not a solid plan from the community, but was prepared to cut the community some slack.
"A staff member should be working with the committee to work out a long term strategy," he said.
"I agree we shouldn't be seeing $80,000 go down the drain every year.
"If there is a sustainable strategy where we can cut that money back substantially it may well be we can keep the pool open."
Cr Clancy said fee structures and other options were open to change and the council should be looking at these rather than trying to close the pool down.
Deputy mayor Jason Kingsley said he had been listening to the community, but since the meeting two years ago, all he had heard from the community was noise.
"There's been nothing firm, nothing in concrete, the community hasn't done anything to demonstrate to me they have a proposal to bring forward," he said.
"I was enthusiastic last month going to meeting in Ulmarra that there would a reasonable turnout like there was in chamber earlier this year. There was 16 people.
"To me that demonstrated this wasn't a serious enough issue for the community."
He said the council has to come up with millions in cuts in the coming months to improve its finances.
"We have to start making some tough decisions," he said. "If those councillors that voted for that last month are not willing to make the tough decisions, then maybe they're not up to the task."
Mayor Jim Simmons spoke against the motion, quoting from an email from an objector.
"What do the residents from Ulmarra, Tucabia, Cowper and Swan Creek, get for their share of the rates?
"Ulmarra gets very little already and you are proposing to take away one of the last things it had left."
The objector noted it was recently the anniversary of the tragic Cub Scout drownings in the Clarence River at Grafton which prompted the community to build public pools.
Cr Simmons said Iluka had been raising money for a pool for a number of years.
He said the recommendation for closing the pool hardly puts a dint in the council's attempts top return to profitably.
"The former smaller councils were able to successfully fund their pools," he said.
"Now we're seeing those assets being lost. Those villages are losing their only facilities."
Cr Karen Toms said the pool has not been picked on, it has come to its end of life.
She said it would take a big spend to bring the pool back to the standard it needs to be.
"This hasn't happened overnight, we have known for years we needed to do something about the pools," Cr Toms said.
Cr Baker in his right of reply said the council was doing what it said it would do.
"We said we would close the pool if the community couldn't come up with some way to save it," he said.
Crs Toms, Baker, Williamson, Kingsley and Lysaught voted for the motion. Against were Crs Ellem, Clancy, Novak and Simmons.
Earlier the former Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell made a deputation to the council meeting representing the Ulmarra Pool Preservation Association (UPPA).
He said residents stopped using the pool when the council increased fees for a family pass from $75 to $150 and increase day entry fees.
Mr Cansdell called on the council to give the pool 12 months grace while the community worked out ways to increase patronage and cut costs.
But when questioned about concrete plans the community had developed he was unable to provide any firm plans, other than assurances from trades people they would help out.