A more than 10-year-long fight to keep Scona Pool open has hit a new hurdle, as the City of Edmonton said this week it plans to close the facility permanently.
"A system failure occurred at Scona Pool when the pool heat exchanger started leaking and was shut down," a city report released earlier this week says.
Gary Maier, director of River City Recreation Inc., confirmed that the heater broke down in late June but he disagrees that it's a system failure. River City Recreation Inc. is contracted to run the pool.
"It's a component," Maier said in an interview Thursday. "If a system fails, that would be multiple components within an assembly."
In a system failure, Maier said the boiler would have gone down the piping would have cracked, for example.
Maier said the heater could be replaced at an estimated price of $25,000 and $40,000.
65-year-old pool nearing end of life
The swimming pool was built at Strathcona High School in 1957.
A physical assessment of the facility completed in July shows significant repairs are required to keep the facility running, the city report says.
Pascale Ladouceur, branch manager of infrastructure, planning and design, said keeping the pool operating safely would require a lot of money and additional resources.
"Scona Pool has exceeded its lifespan and has reached the point where the building envelope and mechanical systems are experiencing significant failures," Ladouceur said in a statement.
The city estimates extending the life of the facility by five to ten years would cost a minimum of $6 million.
The report found issues with the foundation and superstructure, walls and roof, interior finishes and fixtures and mechanical and electrical systems.
Maier said the mechanical system works well and the boiler has been inspected and re-commissioned to work.
"It is safe," Maier said.
A few minor repairs could be done on the west wall, he said.
Kim Clegg, director of planning and development with the Queen Alexandra Community League, said they've been lobbying the city for many years to keep the pool functional.
"If we can just keep it hobbling along, everyone's happy with that," Clegg said in an interview Thursday.
"No one expects it to be fancy like a new pool, but just make it so we can use it and keep it going until we get a new facility built in the area."
Clegg said he doesn't know why the issue keeps coming up, after years of discussion and apparent agreement with the past city council.
"We've had this fight over and over and over, and it's maddening," he said. "We're confused and frustrated by this process."
Last spring, city council agreed to fund the design of the Rollie Miles Leisure Centre but it's in the preliminary stages.
Clegg estimates it could be at least five years before the Rollie Miles facility is built and it's not a guarantee that it will be.
Pool users out in the cold
Maier said about 35 groups, including 14 schools, use the pool at different times of the year.
Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, synchronized swimming clubs, the United Alberta Paddlers Club and school boards use the pool for physical education, training and lessons.
Public groups rent the pool for various events, he added.
The city must give the contractor 30 days' notice before closing the facility.
"Administration will work with the affected school, swim teams and rental groups to explore booking time at other recreation centres, which could impact other groups who have been allocated time at other facilities," the city report says.
The city says three pools are within five kilometres or a 15-minute drive of Scona Pool: the Bonnie Doon Leisure Centre, Confederation Leisure Centre and Kinsmen Sports Centre.
Elaine Solez, chair of Friends of Scona Rec, said it wouldn't be easy for school groups to get to these pools, nor anyone without a vehicle.
"For seniors who don't drive any longer, who count on that pool for their regular exercise, they're going to be out of luck," Solez said.
Executive committee is discussing the report next week.