Pool project ‘worth it’ despite cost

Come on in . . . West Otago Swimming Pool management committee chairman Murray Harris tests the balmy waters of the upgraded facility, at the culmination of a four-year project. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON

RICHARD.DAVISON @alliedpress.co.nz

A pool upgrade that exceeded its budget by more than $600,000 has been described as ‘‘absolutely worth it’’.
‘ Everyone pulls together in a small town like this, and it’s been a pleasure to see the pool full of people enjoying themselves since we opened in
December. ,
The community-owned West Otago Swimming Pool in Tapanui was earmarked for refurbishment in 2015, requiring work to upgrade changing rooms, repair roofing, and meet modern compliance standards.
Project chairman Murray Harris said although an initial project estimate of $360,000 was determined, several unexpected ‘‘contin­gencies’’ had arisen during the project, leading to repeated upwards revisions of the fundraising target.
Those had included an entirely new roof and cladding, additional wheelchair access, pump relocation and rehousing, and repairs to the pool’s main filter system.
A revised estimate of $777,237 was announced in April last year, but the final figure now looked set to exceed $1 million.
Despite the budget blow-out, Mr Harris said community­raised funds had been ‘‘well spent’’ and the end result was ‘‘absolutely worth it’’.
‘‘We’re pretty pleased with the way it’s turned out.
‘‘Everyone pulls together in a small town like this, and it’s been a pleasure to see the pool full of people enjoying themselves since we opened in December.’’
Extensive modernisation meant the pool had features such as automatic lighting in its changing rooms, and an automatic key fob entry system, he said.
A Ministry of Education requirement for roofing to be ‘‘trafficable’’ (walkable), had led to a complete replacement of the twin pools’ outer shell.
‘‘As you can see it’s in swimming pool blue colour, and UV-protective. It stays pretty warm in here, even when it’s not sunny outside. The pools sit around 29degC.
‘‘Altogether it’s transformed the facility for our community.’’
Mr Harris praised West Otago’s effort in volunteering time, labour, resources and funding towards the project.
Had he been aware of the challenges that lay ahead at the outset, however, he said he might have ‘‘thought twice’’ before leading it.
‘‘To be honest, I thought $300,000 would be a big ask, so $1 million is a bit frightening when you look at it like that.’’
He encouraged the leaders of the new Milton Community Pool project to stay focused on their goals.
The $5.7 million pool and service centre complex in the centre of Milton requires $2.4 million of grant and community funding, and is targeted for opening in 2022.
‘‘You need a strong heart, and there’s always more work to be done than you think.
‘‘But it’s worth it in the end.’’