City council mulls $20,000 increase to lifeguard budget

Programming at the Canada Games Centre pool could take a nosedive unless members of council approve a $20,000 amendment to this year's budget.

Programming at the Canada Games Centre pool could take a nosedive unless members of council approve a $20,000 amendment to this year’s budget.

Krista Mroz, manager of recreation and facility services for the City of Whitehorse, addressed council during Monday evening’s meeting.

She explained that an additional 50 lifeguard and instructor hours are required at the aquatic centre each week to maintain the same public swimming hours this fall as last year.

That equates to $25,500 but can be brought down to $20,000 through adjustments during pool shutdown and the Christmas break.

Without the increase in hours, however, the leisure pool will be closed from 5:30 to 7:30 on weekday mornings, which would affect about 18 participants per day.

Lane swimming, the sauna, steam room and swirl pool would have to be closed during joint-use times from Tuesdays to Fridays, which would impact roughly 85 participants per day.

“These times were reduced over the summer and there was considerable feedback indicating that these swim times are highly valued,” according to an administrative report.

The same report stated the aquatic centre submitted a request for the funds as part of the 2015 budget process.

The funds were needed for them to keep up with the latest Canadian pool safety standards, which are set by the Lifesaving Society.

It was identified that “service level adjustments” would have to be made if the funding request was denied, which it was.

Those adjustments included reducing drop-in swimming during the Christmas and March breaks, retaining essential staff only during pool shutdown, and reducing the number of Aquafit classes.

“We’re at a point now where we would have to cut programming, because there is nothing left to cut,” Mroz told council.

Two years ago, the Lifesaving Society visited the pool and carried out an audit of the facilities.

They determined the centre wasn’t meeting the new standards, and needed to increase guarding patterns. Mroz explained that means the number of people on deck and how quickly they’re able to scan the pool.

The pool is a difficult one to guard, she said. “It’s not a box pool, meaning it’s not just a rectangle, there are all kinds of additional features in there.”

Mayor Dan Curtis pointed out the budget amendment isn’t mandatory. But if professionals are saying standards aren’t being met, and it could potentially threaten the safety of both swimmers and staff, then it shouldn’t be ignored, he added.

Mroz said nearly 600 children have registered for swimming lessons so far, and expects the capacity of 800 to be met shortly.

Council can decide to approve the budget amendment, not approve it, or approve another amount. City administration has recommended that council approve the request for $20,000, funded from the general reserve.

The issue will come back before council at next week’s meeting. The aquatic centre is currently closed until Sept. 7 for annual maintenance.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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