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Better a pool rescued than a roof collapsed

Will Canada 150 toss a life ring to a floundering Westsyde Pool?
By Mike Youds
July 23, 2015 12:09 A.M.
Westsyde Pool remains closed as the City seeks federal assistance to refit the 40-year-old facility.

Will Canada 150 toss a life ring to a floundering Westsyde Pool?

That’s what the City of Kamloops and Westsyde Community Development Society (WCDS) are hoping after a setback season for the 40-year-old community amenity.

In what might be described as fortuitous misfortune, Westsyde Pool closed June 26 for an extensive rehabilitation. In other words, the swimming won’t resume in the fall as usual although the fitness facility will stay open throughout.

The 40-year-old indoor facillity, one of only two civic amenities in the neighbourhood of 10,000 residents, closes every year at this time as outdoor pools open for the summer season. This year’s maintenance schedule takes on new heights, literally.

In January, during a routine inspection, the City discovered a failure in the vapour barrier designed to protect the roof from excessive moisture. Moisture has seeped into the wooden panels over the deep end. Obvious safety concerns forced the temporary closure of the pool at that time. Remedial repairs cost $30,000 and bought some time while RDH Building Engineering studied the problem for a permanent remedy.

This City has recent experience with essentially the same issue — moisture and indoor pools can spell trouble and it’s generally not a cheap fix. The Tournament Capital Centre fieldhouse, about half the age of its Westsyde counterpart, has cost City taxpayers three-quarters of a million dollars because it was constructed with insufficient vapour barriers. A fix for Westsyde Pool may ultimately cost twice that much or more.

Westsyders were clearly upset when it was reported that the pool would have to be temporarily closed last winter to inspect the problem, but the City had no other option. As city staff, recently told the WCDS, the risk of a roof collapse in the pool’s current state is significant. 

If Kamloops experiences the wrong combination of snowfall and wind speed next winter, the roof could give way, a potential disaster if the pool were in use. While that is unlikely — the last time Westsyde recorded 90 km/h winds was in 1960 — it would be unwise to underestimate Mother Nature.

Complicating the situation, the City had already completed its 2015 capital budget and couldn’t retrofit the estimated $1.2 million pool fix into this year’s spending. Council agreed to defer the project to 2016.

Yet this cloud may ultimately have a silver lining for Westsyde. It’s called the Canada 150 Fund, announced May 19. To help celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017, the federal government has a pool of $42 million for not-for-profit organizations, schools, non-commercial private initiatives and (last but not least) municipalities to fund worthy projects.

As City facilities manager Jeff Putnam told WCDS, the pool fix fits Canada 150 perfectly in terms of the application submission deadline and the nature of the project. Groups can apply for a grant of up to half the cost of their projects. The City’s application for $500,000 is in the works and confirmation, though not guaranteed, is expected by January — a year after the roof problem became evident.

Why Westsyde Pool and not some other civic project?

“This was ready to go,” Byron McCorkell, director of parks, recreation and culture told council earlier this month. “We are in the midst of design and that one fits easily because the deadline is basically next week.”

If approved, the funding would mean a whole new lease on life — with a properly designed roof and energy efficiency modifications — for a neighbourhood fixture that’s been part of life in Westsyde since 1975.

On the spot, as City staff spoke to the society, vice-president Robert Kelly was penning a letter of support for the City’s application to the federal government for funding.

All going well, the pool should be back in operation by next year.

As long as they don’t rename it the Sesquicentennial Pool.

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