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City project to replace outdoor pool suffers financial setback

City hall had applied to a federal grant program for nearly $7 million to fund the nearly $9-million pool project, but the request was denied because the program received more requests than could be accommodated.
phyllis dewar pool 2019 A
Phyllis Dewar Outdoor Pool. File photo

City hall’s plan to replace the Phyllis Dewar Outdoor Pool has suffered a financial setback because the federal grant program to which it applied received more requests than could be accommodated.

Council allocated funding in the 2022 capital budget for the parks and recreation department to begin the preliminary design and pre-tendering estimates to replace the 56-year-old, 50-metre outdoor pool with a new interactive outdoor water park that improved access and programming opportunities for all ages and abilities, a city council report explained. 

Some of the proposed amenities at the new outdoor aquatic site include: 

  • An 870-square-metre seasonal building with a reception desk, universal change rooms, concession, staff rooms and mechanical and storage rooms
  • A 535-square-metre, eight-lane, 25-metre lap pool with accessible ramp entry
  • A 232-square-metre leisure pool with accessible entry, lazy river, tot pool and spray features
  • A 40-metre water slide with an access tower

The project’s proposed cost is $8,999,434, with $6,533,945 expected to come from the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) and provincial Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure stream and $2,465,489 from city coffers.

Council approved the initiative’s conceptual designs and preliminary budget estimates during its May 9 meeting, while on May 10, city hall finalized and submitted the ICIP grant application, said Derek Blais, director of parks and recreation, during the Aug. 22 executive committee meeting.

The province emailed the department on July 5 and said Moose Jaw’s project was not selected to advance under the ICIP program, he continued. Even though the application was assessed and eligible, it wasn’t among the projects recommended because the total number of applications and funding requests exceeded the available funding during this intake. 

This is likely the last intake for recreation venues through the ICIP program, which means city hall is reviewing other opportunities to fund the outdoor pool replacement project and will provide a report during the 2023 budget deliberations, Blais added. 

The pool’s status was part of Blais’ overall report about six projects for which his department has pursued funding. So far, his department has acquired $945,369 to support the other five projects.

The Express will have a separate story about those other initiatives.

Coun. Crystal Froese commended Blais for raising nearly $1 million in project grants, noting it’s a significant amount of money that taxpayers don’t have to provide.

“I am really disappointed about the pool. We were really hoping to get that one (grant) to move that whole project forward,” she said, noting she has swum at the pool regularly to beat the heat. “Although it is beautiful out there, it is so old. I mean, it’s 56 years old and it shows its age. It has not aged very well.”

Froese added that she was pleased that Blais and his department were looking for other financial partners to complete the project.

It is unfortunate that the city’s grant application was declined, agreed Coun. Doug Blanc. He wondered if looking for other funding would delay the project.

This project will be delayed, while acquiring infrastructure grant funding for a project of this magnitude will be difficult to acquire, said Blais. 

“We’ll have to stay tuned to see what’s coming through the federal government (and) provincial government (and) those types of options. We’ll also have to look at financing option … as we work through where we can find $9 million,” he added.  

In response to another question from Blanc, Blais said the pool closes after the Labour Day long weekend because most employees are students who are returning to school.

The next executive committee meeting is Monday, Sept. 12.