Joanne Nicolato of the Aldergrove Recreation and Pool Society tried to convince Langley Township council to build a bigger pool in the new recreation centre at the Monday June 24 meeting. She was partially successful. A majority of council endorsed a six-lane pool instead of the four proposed in a report to council. But it was still far short of the eight lanes the society was seeking.

Smaller pool approved for Aldergrove

Supporters of larger pool tangle with Township council

By DAN FERGUSON

The people who are campaigning for a larger pool in a yet-to-be built Aldergrove recreation centre clashed with the people who must find the funds to pay for it Monday afternoon (June 24) at Langley Township council.

A proposal to build a four-lane lap pool at the former Aldergrove Elementary school site at Fraser Highway and 270 Street was condemned by Joanne Nicolato, the chair and founder of the 116-member Aldergrove Recreation and Pool Society, the group that launched the campaign to build an eight-lane pool.

She called the plan a “slap in the face” to Aldergrove residents, saying the society was “deeply disappointed by a consultant’s report that recommended a four lane, 25-metre “short course” pool instead of the eight lane, 50-metre “long course” pool the society is seeking.

They could live with 25 metres, she said, but not four lanes.

A “bare minimum” would be six, she said.

Nicolato went on to warn the pool could become an issue in the next municipal election in 2014.

“It looks like this community may be getting the shaft again,” Nicolato said.

“Aldergrove residents may need to seriously think about how this current council has serviced their long overdue needs.”

Councillor Steve Ferguson objected, calling Nicolato’s remarks “quite abrasive,” “not fair” and “not respectful.”

Ferguson said Aldergrove will be doing doing better than the city of Langley, which is “a lot bigger” and does not have an indoor pool.

The “Aquatic Needs Assessment” report by Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants (PERC) Inc. said anything more than four lanes would be under-used.

“One should be very careful about the eventual scale and size of the proposed new pool and not proceed with a facility that is too large and unsustainable for this relatively small market of 13,000 to 20,000 residents,” the PERC document stated.

The PERC report did list a six-lane pool as an option, but warned it would operate at 31 to 36 per cent capacity at first, rising to no more than 51 per cent capacity “in the long term future.”

Going from four to six lanes would add $600,000 to $1 million to the cost of the project, plus an extra $150,000 to $200,000 to operate, the report estimated.

Going to eight lanes would add even more expense, mayor Jack Froese said.

“Saying yes to a larger pool is saying no to to something else, either in this facility or elsewhere in the Township,” Froese said.

Councillor Kim Richter said council should build the eight lanes the community wants.

“It’s Aldergrove’s turn,” she said, drawing applause from the pool society delegation, but no votes from the rest of council.

Councillor Bob Long suggested a compromise that would build five lanes instead of four, but that idea found no support, either.

In the end, the majority of council voted for six lanes.

Richter was the lone vote against.

Councillor Grant Ward was absent from the Monday meeting.

A conciliatory statement posted online at http://aldergrovereccenter.ca by the society following the meeting called the decision a “fair compromise.”

“This is not the grand scale that we had hoped to get, but with the vision of making this a facility that will wow people who come here, [the decision] enables us to hold our heads high and be proud of what we have achieved here,” the statement added.

If everything goes according to plan, the new facility could open by 2015.

Langley Township council earlier approved a controversial sale of Township-owned land in Glen Valley to help fund the new community centre, swimming pool and ice rink.

While the Township waits for the sales, it will use money from surplus funds and reserves, as well as short-term borrowing “of less than five years” to fund construction.

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