By Jenn Watt
Published Oct. 9 2018
For many years Haliburton County residents have been asking for a recreation facility including a pool which would provide exercise opportunities year round for a wide range of abilities and age groups.
Proponents of the pool/rec centre argued that people are leaving the county to visit pools in other communities spending their dollars elsewhere. They’ve also argued that the lack of such facilities is a deterrent to prospective newcomers especially those with young families.
Last week incumbent mayoral candidate Murray Fearrey launched a video that detailed his vision for a recreation facility on a 65-acre property on the Harburn Road near the cemetery just outside of Haliburton village.
“If there’s ever been a time as a municipality to develop a comprehensive recreation centre the time is now. I know the future of this incredible community depends on the many young families who call Dysart home to have their needs taken care of in this regard” Fearrey says in the video which features images of children swimming people jogging on treadmills and what look like conceptual plans with multiple buildings and ample parking.
At the all-candidates meeting on Thursday at Fleming College in Haliburton candidates were asked about their views on a pool as well as providing recreation for seniors. Many candidates supported a recreation facility and others said they were willing to engage in a feasibility study.
Fearrey’s opponent in the mayoral race current Deputy Mayor Andrea Roberts said building a pool would need the support of the county or another municipality.
“So as much as swimming is my ultimate favourite thing to do and I think it’s absolutely valuable for this community we need to go back to the drawing board to see if it’s feasible. I think that it can’t be on any one municipality it would have to be either at a county level or in collaboration with another municipality to build a facility like that” she said.
Later in the meeting when the topic of seniors recreation came up Roberts said she wanted to see the upstairs level of the arena renovated to improve accessibility.
“Not necessarily a new construction of a seniors centre but I did propose in this year’s budget to put in $60000 to a reserve to upgrade the upstairs of the arena. I think that’s a very under-utilized space and we have a great recreation department” she said adding programming for seniors could take place in a newly revamped arena space.
Fearrey told the audience it is time to take a serious look at a recreation centre.
“Definitely we need to go back and re-examine the cost of the pool. Four years have gone by [and] there doesn’t seem to be an appetite … at the county level. If we can lead the way there’s a lot of people out here who really want this and there’s a lot of people [who] are afraid of what it’s going to cost. I’ve never been known to put policies in place that cost people more than they can afford and make it unattainable. We need a business plan. But I’m all in favour of looking into it and I think we need it.”
Both deputy mayor candidates said they were up for re-examining the business case for a pool or recreation centre.
“I’d be willing to look at any options that present a business case that is sustainable and whether it’s at the local level or the county level I think we need to take a hard long look at it. And [I’m] more than willing to endorse and move forward with the initiative” deputy mayor candidate Patrick Kennedy said.
Dennis Casey also running for deputy mayor said his bookkeeping background led him to think it won’t work financially but said: “I’m prepared like Pat to sit down and go through some sort of … business plan and see if it’s viable.”
Ward 1 candidates Bram Lebo and Nancy Wood-Roberts the incumbent said they supported a pool. Lebo said it was hard to argue the municipality can’t afford it when costing hadn’t happened.
Wood-Roberts said if it’s financially sustainable she was “all for it.”
In the discussion about a seniors centre Lebo added a rec centre should be in the downtown and could include space for meeting rooms auditorium and a daycare facility.
Ward 4 candidate John Smith said he has served on a committee of management for pools in the GTA and thought they could be affordable. He said they had the ability to attract young professionals to a community. “I’d sure like to look really hard at finding a way at getting this thing delivered” he said.
When the question about seniors recreation came up he said the community centres that exist should be better used. “We’re not utilizing facilities that we’ve already bought and paid for. And we have seniors not just in the downtown area of Haliburton Village … Let’s make use of these things.”
Ward 2 candidate David McKay said he supported a swimming pool/recreation centre. He said he has a background with minor hockey but fewer people are signing up for the sport. A swimming pool complex would offer opportunity for the whole population he said.
Ward 5 candidate Glenn Scott said he would support looking into the business case and wondered if a partnership would help. “Why can we not look at possibly partnering with a large camp or something like that?”