The Beagle Editor, Your readers might recall that I sent a letter to the Eurobodalla Council Mayor posing 17 questions in regards to the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre proposed at Mackay Park, Batemans Bay. Council's General Manager (and not the Mayor) eventually responded with many of the answers reworked from the Mayoral Report and Minute as one has come to expect.
For your readers following the issues I offer the questions and answers below:
Dear Mr Mobbs Thank you for your letter to the Mayor dated 9 March 2018 containing further questions about the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre proposed at Mackay Park, Batemans Bay. Mayor Innes has asked that I respond on her behalf. With regard to your comments about the politicisation of the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee meeting: I would like to advise you that the Mayor was invited by the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee to the meeting. The Mayor has regularly attended and participated in their meetings without any previous suggestion of politicising the meetings. I believe that this was the first of their meetings that you and your group have attended. Responses to your specific questions are provided below. 1. Where is the written advice that leads Council to claim that the present 50m pool is at the end of its life and must be removed and where is the evidence that refurbishment and re-use is not an option? Copies of that advice would be appreciated. In relation to the Browns Consulting Report 2014, as your group has been advised on many occasions, Council has requested the legal copyright release from Calibre to enable the release of the report. We can however provide the following general comments.This report was undertaken in 2014 to provide an overview assessment of the pool and to identify and prioritise works to assist in keeping the pool operational. This assessment specifically excluded a ‘structural and civil audit’ of the existing Batemans Bay 50m swimming pool. It is worth noting that this report included identifying issues that would need to be addressed in the longer term. These matters included improving accessibility into the pool and upgrading the water circulation/filtration system. These are matters relating to the original design and construction of the pool more than 50 years ago. The existing pool pipework and circulation/filtration system is below the requirements for modern day pools, particularly in relation to the turnover of water. The current turnover of water occurs approximately every six hours. Current design standards for public outdoor pools, as documented in NSW Health Public Swimming Pool and Spa Advisory Document,require much higher turnover rates. While the public health risks to users is being effectively managed through a stringent water testing regime, into the future, the challenge of ensuring satisfactory water quality in the pool will increase. The condition of the existing pipe system is currently an unknown as it is all buried. There are currently minor leakage issues and as the majority of the original pipework is now more than 50 years old, the risk of resultant unplanned operational issues is increasing. Although these risks are being managed through water leakage monitoring, the pipework and associated systems would need to be replaced to improve confidence of service provision and meet current water circulation standards.This would require major works that would impact the pool shell including at various connection points. Although the report provided general estimates (in 2014 dollars) to repair/replace components, there are significant unknowns which are likely to require greater expenditure. Additionally this would still leave uncertainty regarding the support under the existing 50 year old pool shell, which should also be fully replaced, which in itself is a much more substantial project. I refer you to Attachment 2 of the Mayoral Minute of 27 March 2018 which provides further discussion on why the existing 50m pool is not proposed to be retained. 2. Has any of this work (work recommended in the Brown report) been done? If so, to what level and what cost? The more immediate high and medium priority items have been addressed since the report was completed through maintenance and renewal budgets. 3. In the face of sustained criticism on this particular issue (the release of the Brown report), if Council has the evidence to support its claims, why isn’t Council waving that evidence from the rooftops if it supports Council’s demolition stance? Council has met with you and outlined the key issues in our face to face meeting at the Batemans Bay community centre and at the meeting you attended with the Batemans Bay Swimming Club.The “sustained criticism” of Council on this issue has come predominately from your group,despite your being fully aware of the legal impediments to Council releasing the document.The criticism is therefore without merit as Council will not breach legal obligations or restrictions regarding the release of the document. Page 3 of 6Notwithstanding the above, Council is happy to provide further information to the community about the condition of the existing pool. I refer you again to Attachment 2 of the Mayoral Minute of 27 March 2018 and to the response to Question 1 above. 4. Where is the evidence of the wide community consultation and support for a 25mpool that Council claims took place before proposals for the development were finalised? I refer you to Attachment 1 of the Mayoral Minute of 27 March 2018 which outlines the extensive community engagement activities undertaken by Council on this issue over the last two decades.Throughout this engagement, the most common theme that emerged was the need for an indoor aquatic centre. There have always been varying suggestions to Council about the type of water bodies to include in the indoor aquatic centre, including a 50m pool, a 25mpool, a warm water program pool, a learn-to-swim pool, etc. The highest priorities from all consultation activities undertaken on this matter are for warm water therapy and learn to swim. While lap swimming ranks much lower in terms of priority, the concept plan facilitates lap swimming in addition to the higher priorities of warm water therapy and learn to swim. On the basis of this extensive community engagement, the advice from expert consultants that takes into account our population characteristics and current trends in aquatic centre provision, and from our discussions with operators of other aquatic centres, Council believes that the concept plan provides the right mix of water bodies to meet the broadest and highest priority needs of our community. 5. Would you please provide the team with a complete copy of the Terms of Reference for that consultancy (Otium), so that this statement (“Otium was asked to address the option of retaining the 50m pool”) can be substantiated? Ms Coral Anderson of the Fight for a 50m Pool team was emailed a copy of the Request forQuote document that contains the brief for the Otium work on 7 June 2017. 6. Why is Otium being allowed to make further decisions based on recommendations that it made in an earlier report to Council that appears not to have been endorsed or ratified by Council? Otium does not make decisions in relation to the project. Otium has provided independent professional advice to Council, the decision maker. Page 4 of 6 7. When will Otium be advised that its draft 2017 Aquatic Strategy has indeed been accepted and ratified by Council? Presumably there would be an element of their consultancy fee that is contingent upon this occurring. The preparation of an Aquatic Strategy was a requirement of the brief, as was the preparation of an Assessment of Preferrerd Arts and Cultural Facilities, to inform the business case and concept plan. As per standard practice, Council was briefed on the strategies and they were presented to Council as drafts at the Extraordinary Council Meeting on 29 August 2017. As Council made a decision to endorse a concept plan option at that meeting, no further work was required to be undertaken to the draft Aquatic Strategy and it is therefore deemed to have been finalised. 8. Given your recent comments on the state of the pool, do you disagree with the Otium assessment that it is in “fair condition”? Council agrees with the Otium assessment that the existing pool is in fair condition and because of this, the pool is able to be open to the public for swimming. This does not mean that the pool does not, or will not, need major upgrades or suffer a major failure in the future, or that the pool is suitable in its current form for meeting the community’s needs both now and into the future. See the response to question 1. 9. Specifically what elements/components of the pool suffered from subsidence, in which years and how were these remediated or dealt with as “major repairs” and by whom? The major repairs, required to be undertaken at the pool in 2012 were not a result of subsidence but most likely a result of a major water leak of over 50,000 litres per day. This significant amount of water loss caused some material under the pool to be washed away. This was repaired by replacing the concrete ducting arrangement with a piped arrangement, injecting an expanding proprietary filler under the pool and re-concreting the base. Council engaged specialist contractors to undertake this work. 10. If subsidence is a current problem at Mackay Park, why is council even consideringinvesting $46.3 million on new capital acquisition on that site? As noted above, the loss of material from under the pool floor was likely caused by the leakage of water from the pool itself. This does not suggest that there is a subsidence problem at the site. Technical work will be undertaken as part of the detailed design phase to establish the ground conditions before undertaking any future development. Page 5 of 6 11. Do the Otium estimates for Mackay Park include geotechnical work to prepare/protect the site so that subsidence will be removed as a future issue? The cost estimate prepared by Turner and Townsend and contained in the business case prepared by Otium, includes an allowance for professional fees (to cover a range of expert studies that would need to be undertaken); however the allowance does not cover adverse soil conditions (ie excavation in rock, contaminated soil, soft spots, etc). This is standard practice when costing concept plans. A geotechnical assessment of the site will be a necessary to inform the detailed engineering design of the new facility. 12. If Council has the evidence that the present pool, in “fair condition”, is not worth retaining and refurbishing, why has that evidence not been widely published in the pool debate thus far? See response to questions 1 and 3 above. 13. Will you now provide that report (Quantity Surveyor’s report)? If not, why not? Otium engaged Turner and Townsend to provide indicative capital cost estimates of the two concept plans prepared (provided at Appendix 6 of the Business Case), and to provide an estimate of the additional costs to replace the indoor 25m pool with an indoor 50m pool (provided on pages 15 and 22 of the Business Case). The tables in Appendix 6 of the Business Case, referred to above, together form the Quantity Surveyors report. There is no separate report. The Business Case has been in the public domain since late last year. 14. Whether one looks at Options 1 or 2, in this table – both with a total indicative capital cost of $8,565,000 for “Aquatic Pool Works”, how does the figure of an additional $6.5million arise for a 50m pool? The additional cost for including an indoor 50m pool, in lieu of an indoor 25m pool, are based on additional pool works plus additional building works, plus additional design and construction contingency, plus additional fees and authority charges. 15. What is the basis of your remark? See response to question 14 above. Page 6 of 6 16. Is Council aware of the recent “Save Bomaderry Pool” activism that led Shoalhaven Council to sit up, take notice of community sentiment and recant on its demolition stance for the Bomaderry Sporting Precinct Master Plan? Yes. 17. Is Council aware that in the ACT, the Stromlo Leisure Centre is to be built, including a50m pool, with the total cost quoted as $36.6m. Yes. Council is also aware of other recent assessments undertaken by or on behalf of local governments that have estimated the cost of providing an indoor 50m pool instead of an indoor 25m pool as being in a similar order to the advice provided to Council by Otium and Turner and Townsend. For an example, I refer you to the Mornington Peninsula’s Rosebud Aquatic Centre business case: https://www.mornpen.vic.gov.au/About-Us/News-Media-Publications/Initiatives/Rosebud-Aquatic-Centre In your preamble to question 16 and your discussion on question 17, you state that Council is claiming that “no one wants 50-meter pools anymore” and that 50-metre pools are unpopular. I am not aware of anyone from Council making these claims. In making decisions with regards to this matter, Council will continue to take into consideration a range of matters including demography, community needs, construction and ongoing operational costs, the condition of existing infrastructure and advice from other operators and independent professionals. I remind you that Council has already decided that it will, in the detailed design phase, look at the potential for expansion of the facility in the future, if and when required. I hope your readers have found the above responses by Council to be of interest John Mobbs