At a May 1 meeting, Smiths Falls town councillors narrowly managed to achieve an agreement on providing municipal operating funds to the Smiths Falls & District Aquatic Recreation Centre (ARC) in 2017.
A volunteer group operates the facility, which is the former Rideau Regional Centre Pool, now located within the Gallipeau Centre.
With $26,600 already set aside in the town’s 2017 budget for a community grant to ARC, councillors who objected to providing taxpayers’ dollars to a facility on private property agreed to compromise, recognizing that Smiths Falls can’t afford to build its own public pool.
Because the $26,600 grant was intended to be paid only if neighbouring municipalities whose residents use the pool agree to pay a combined equivalent amount, councillors agreed to pay the full amount only if matching funds are forthcoming. Any shortfall in the funding from neighbours will instead be applied to the cost of paying for free swims and for bus transportation to the pool from downtown on free swim days.
Councillors John Maloney and Dawn Quinn argued that the town’s contribution to ARC should be paid in monthly installments rather than as a lump sum, so that the pool’s financial viability can be monitored during the year.
“I’m not open to giving them this money at all,” Quinn initially stated.
Because buses provided to take swimmers to the pool during March Break weren’t well used, Mayor Shawn Pankow suggested that it would be better to apply the shortfall portion of the town’s funding to pay for more free swims rather than for transportation.
However, Maloney said the buses could be offered as a “pilot project” and cancelled if usage was too low.
After it was agreed that the grant would be paid in instalments, buses would be provided and the free swims scheduled only on school professional development days, council agreed to provide the funding.