A decision on Cessnock’s new aquatic centre has been deferred so Cessnock Council can explore options that won’t require a rate rise.
A feasibility and design report was presented to the council on Wednesday night, recommending that council adopt the report with a “medium-embellishment” centre featuring 25-metre indoor pool and 51-metre outdoor pool as the preferred option.
This centre would cost about $39 million.
A high-embellishment option with a 51-metre indoor pool (including a boom that would allow it to be divided in half) would cost approximately $48 million.
Both options would require grant funding of $20 million.
The medium-embellishment option would require a special rate variation of $1,851,996 over 15 years (a 5.5 percent rate increase) and the high-embellishment option would require a special rate variation of $2,680,444 over 15 years (an eight percent rise).
Labor councillor Jay Suvaal moved that council considers further options that would exclude the need for a special rate variation.
“I want us to achieve something, but the track we’re going down would require a special rate variation and large amounts of grants,” he said.
“I don’t want to support something that will put people’s rates up just for one project.”
Cr Suvaal said he thinks the funding options and the model of the centre itself need to be re-assessed.
He said a new aquatic centre would be fantastic for the town, but he is concerned the options presented in the report are not achievable.
“I don’t want to drag the pool users along thinking that we can get something like that, but all we would deliver is a report,” he said.
The previous council voted to include a 51-metre indoor pool as the preferred option when it adopted the draft aquatic needs analysis study in September 2014.
Cr Suvaal asked for the report to be acknowledged and for councillors to be briefed on the process so far, as nine of the current councillors were not on the previous council.
Independent councillor Ian Olsen and Liberal trio Rod Doherty, Paul Dunn and John Fagg voted against Cr Suvaal’s motion.
Cr Olsen, who has been on the council since 1999, said a decision needed to be made as soon as possible.
“If we do not make a decision, it will never be shovel-ready,” he said.
Cessnock Pool Users Group representative Dennis Moore addressed the meeting and suggested that council may want to remove the 25-metre option from its plans in order to include the 51-metre pool inside.
“Having an outdoor pool at all is a waste of money, because it will be closed half of the year,” he said.
Mr Moore said Maitland Road, East Cessnock would be a better location for the new pool than council’s preference at Turner Park, Aberdare, because it has better access to public transport, less traffic and no current users that would be impacted.
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