Tumut Shire Councillors have overturned a decision to allow free entry to the Tumut pool and have instead jacked up admission prices.
An extra ordinary meeting held last Thursday morning rescinded a previous decision to allow free entry into the Tumut Pool.
Wasting no time sinking their teeth into the difficult issues, the new councillors called for the additional meeting as a matter of urgency during their first ordinary council meeting Tuesday week ago.
It was two of the fresh councillors who called for the meeting, Clrs Peter Cross and Magaret Isselmann, to consider a rescission notice in regard to free entry for the public to shire swimming pools.
During Thursday’s early morning meeting, a budgeted increase of $245,000 to operate the Tumut Pool for the upcoming season was discussed and played a large part in councillors’ decision to deem the pool a user pay service.
As a result of council coming out of its contract for the provision of management services for the seasonal operations of the Tumut Pool, several budget adjustments have been made in order to cover the proposed increase for council in keeping the Tumut Pool open.
Although prior to running for council Clr Isselmann publicly supported the move to make entry into shire pools free, since elected she has changed her opinion and was one of three who put forward the latest rescission motion regarding free entry.
She said she is not disappointed with the decision to charge entry.
“We went into the extra ordinary meeting on Thursday to resolve entry to the pool at all levels,” Clr Isselmann said. “Initially I was in support of free entry and I was certainly wanting the issue of entry addressed. I am very supportive of the decision, it would have been lovely to have had free entry but that is not the way things work.”
Clr Isselmann added she was also pleased that the fees for entry into Batlow Pool had remained the same as last year and the family pass will allow families access to all shire pools.
The issue of entry cost to Tumut’s pool had been bandied about by the council in the twilight of its term.
At one point school children were allowed in for free, but only during school terms.
That was followed in August the then Mayor John Larter, successfully putting forward a motion to allow free public entry to shire pools on a trial basis for the coming season.
While the former mayor is furious that the decision has been overturned, newly elected Mayor, Trina Thomson, supported the decision to charge entry and said the cost to absorb free entry was going to be exorbitant.
“At the extra ordinary meeting we all discussed the impact to the budget that free entry would have,” Clr Thomson said. “Council have had to come up with a new way of managing the pool as the pool manager is now employed directly by council. In a perfect world entry would be free, but a council cannot operate that way.”
The idea of keeping Batlow’s fee static at $2.70 for adults and children whilst raising entry to Tumut to $4.00 per adult and $3.00 per child, is due to Batlow not having the same level of service, according to Clr Thomson.
“Entry for learn to swim children will be $2.00 with the entry for accompanying non swimming adults free this year in Tumut,” Clr thomson said. “We are trying to provide this level for learn to swim classes so they are as accessible as possible. We are trying to come up with the best system.”
She emphasised the importance of considering the entire community when decisions that affect the budget are made.
“It is a complicated issue but perfect for a workshop that councillors can sit around and look at the pros and cons and not debate emotionally about,” Clr thomson said. “The whole focus is looking at what we can do for the community as a whole. A huge percentage of the population don’t access the pool. We are looking at how do we make it work not just for this year but long term.”
During the upcoming swimming season usage will be monitored in order to streamline the running of the facility as well.
The Tumut Pool season, which will commence on November 3, will be the most expensive to date with entry prices even for those who are non swimmers proposed to be $3.
The decision to reverse free entry into the pool was for another newcomer to the councillor’s table, Peter Cross, also a matter of finances.
“I supported the rescission motion because I felt that, after receiving the report about the cost of managing the Shire’s pools in the coming season, to do anything else would have been financially irresponsible and definitely not in the best interests of the community,” Clr Cross said. “In my opinion Council’s discretionary budget is very small and, in some instances it’s a question of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.
“This is one such case and other programs will suffer because of these increased costs. To add to the burden by allowing free pool entry this season would have been very silly.”