Edmonton city council isn’t willing to take the plunge on a deeper wading pool outside city hall, despite a push from the public to keep the water at 40 centimetres.
Council voted 8-4 Tuesday for the plan to rehabilitate the pool to a depth of 15 centimetres, as part of an overall $13-million project to revamp civic plaza.
The shallower option was the original design prepared by administration, before council asked to see other possibilities.
The debate about the pool has gone on for weeks, and several councillors seemed eager to make a decision.
“I feel like we’ve had plenty of input from our public,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
The mayor acknowledged most public feedback called for keeping the pool water knee deep. But Iveson voted for the shallow design anyway.
“Ideally, we would have found a way to do it with the water still being a little bit deeper,” he said.
The deeper pool would have required putting a fence around the pool or hiring a 24-hour security guard. Both options were estimated to cost an extra $400,000, with the security detail costing another $122,00 a year.
It would have taken longer to build, with the project spilling over from 2019 into the 2020 festival season.
“Weighing all of that, I’m happy to defend to our public that what’s realistic and the best compromise under the situation is to go with what’s designed,” Iveson said.
Coun. Sarah Hamilton also advocated for a prompt decision in favour of 15 cm.
She said it’s better to invest the money saved into providing free entry into public pools around the city, giving more people access to recreation. “[It’s] more inclusive to allow people to enjoy their own neighbourhoods than to make them go downtown.”
Last year, admission was free at outdoor pools, a move that cost the city about $400,000, council was told.
About 88,000 people visited the city’s four outdoor pools in 2016. That number spiked to 190,000 from July to September last year, when the city offered free admission to the pools.
Statistics show that nearly 67,000 people waded in the city hall pool last summer.
“Those are incredible numbers,” Coun. Aaron Paquette said. “It shows that this is a success story in Edmonton.”
‘We’ve spent more … in a blink of an eye’
Coun. Mike Nickel said he was confused about why council didn’t heed the wishes of the public.
“Even though everybody admits they wanted to keep it as it is,” he said, “now we have a council that says, ‘Nah, we’re not going to listen to that.’
“We’ve spent more money on projects in a blink of an eye, without giving it second thought.”
He pointed to the new funicular, which cost $25 million to build. The Experience Jasper Avenue project cost $19 million.
The 25-year-old fountain and wading pool at city hall must be rehabilitated to meet provincial safety standards.
The accessibility factor
The city’s accessibility advisory committee met Monday night and decided it preferred the 15-cm option, for a more “seamless experience,” Rob Smyth with citizen services told council Tuesday.
The original design of 15 cm allows wheelchair accessibility on both sides of the pool when it turns into a rink in the winter. That reduces the surface area of the rink by 20 per cent.
The pool will be closed this spring as construction begins on the civic plaza. The project is scheduled to be finished in time for the 2019 festival season.