Councillors debate fate of Municipal Pools

FACE LIFT: Architect Mark Wassung design concept for upgrading Hamilton’s Municipal Pool.
FACE LIFT: Architect Mark Wassung design concept for upgrading Hamilton’s Municipal Pool.

A leading Hamilton architect has drawn up designs to "breathe new life" into Hamilton's historic Municipal Pools as councillors debate whether to shut the complex permanently.

Architect Mark Wassung is expected to show councillors his concept today ahead of a vote on the pool's future.

A council staff report recommends the pool remain closed and an alternative use for the Victoria St site be explored.

Councillors closed the century-old pools complex in May while a major leak was investigated. Testing revealed the pool leaks up to 37,325 litres a day.

Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman hoped Mr Wassung's plans would find favour with councillors.

"I think everyone wants to retain the pools, that's the emotional answer but the second response is most councillors, I think, are concerned about spending money that might only be a short-term fix," he said.

Council staff estimate a major upgrade of the facility could cost more than $4 million with operational costs estimated at $280,000 a year.

Sealing the existing pool is not considered an option because of the inadequate strength of the main pool walls.

Mr Wassung's concept design features two options, and costs upwards of $6.2m plus GST.

Mr Chesterman said the challenge was to find a long-term solution for the complex and suggested money could be used from the proposed sale of the city's YMCA site.

"My feeling is if the Mark Wassung idea got some traction then I would like to see $2m from the YMCA sale seed fund a trust which could then raise the balance, which could be another two or three or four million dollars. That would give us an outstanding facility.

"But given our financial situation it's clear we need to be prudent with our spend and the days of putting things on debt are well and truly over."

Councillor Dave Macpherson said he was disappointed council staff had not worked more closely with groups pushing to keep the complex open.

"I've always thought the pools should be kept open and I don't necessarily think the staff figures are the last word. Staff feel they've been instructed to save money but that should not necessarily be at the expense of everything and I think that's happening at the moment."

Cr Macpherson said he would support a move to explore options for the site.

Similarly, councillor Ewan Wilson said he favoured a motion giving support groups, such as Sink or Swim, more time to find a solution for the historic pools.

"As we as a city continue to encourage infill of our CBD, these are the types of facilities our ratepayers expect us to have. It would be a tragic end before Christmas if we were to turn our backs on what is a historic asset."

Councillor Peter Bos said he was keeping an open mind about today's council vote but was mindful of the pool's importance to Hamilton.

Waikato Times