Editorial: Take a deep breath

There was some understandable kneejerk reaction to our story yesterday on the future of Century Pool.

When we wrote that South Canterbury Gymsports wants the council to pay the $80,000 to $100,000 to fill in the pool, and would then lease the complex for $100 a year, a couple of people phoned to ask if we'd made a mistake.

Had we left some zeros off the latter figure?

But we hadn't. But neither is the $100 lease figure unusual.

For the community good, the council has a policy to support sports clubs, which it does through peppercorn leases, rates rebates, low interest loans and direct grants.

So that's not really the issue the council's community development committee will wrestle with today.

The real issue is who should pay to fill in the pool.

And there aren't too many options. Pay, don't pay, pay some, further investigate options or demolish the building.

If the council doesn't pay, Gymsports might walk away.

Gymsports will have its own costs fitting out the building, which include a $70,000 gymnastics floor. As a not-for-profit incorporated society it might attract pokie machine grants, but its funding will have limits.

And its aims for the community are positive. It wants to operate a self-funding facility providing gym for pre-schoolers to adults up to movement classes for the elderly.

Is the council of a mind to risk losing that? Is there room for a cost split?

If Gymsports did walk away, the council is left with a solid building on recreation-zoned land. Its use is largely limited to recreational activities.

It might be unpalatable to some ratepayers that up to $100,000 is needed to fill in a hole, but it would cost more than that to demolish the building.

And leaving it empty seems a waste.

Another option might be to establish a clear lease agreement detailing what the council is or isn't offering, and go back to the community with it. There was little interest before, but other clubs and sports may have been working under a different understanding.

If the council is willing to pay or part-pay for filling in the pool, it might change things.

That said, the Gymsports proposal is a good one.

And not unreasonable, when you think about it.

The Timaru Herald