Teslin residents thirst for swimming pool

Teslin is a community with a plan. Last month the Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council published their joint community development, which outlines capital and infrastructure projects for the next decade.

Teslin is a community with a plan.

Last month the Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council published their joint community development, which outlines capital and infrastructure projects for the next decade.

At the top of the community’s wish list? A swimming pool.

“That was one of the top priorities as presented by the community – that’s not a priority necessarily that both councils put forward, but the community itself did,” said Wes Wirth, the First Nation’s executive manager.

At a community meeting a year ago, interest in a swimming pool outranked every other item by a landslide.

“The community has said, ‘We’d like a pool.’ So we have to look into it, we can’t just ignore what the community says,” said Wirth.

Ongoing operations and maintenance can be expensive, he said.

“We need to be responsible and make sure that we can actually sustain having a swimming pool here if we’re going to have one. So we need to go do some work on that before we can say, “let’s go build a pool.’”

Some of that work has already been done. The village has compiled research based on community pools around the territory. Eleven out of 16 Yukon communities have swimming pools, according to that report. That includes some communities smaller than Teslin, which has a population of about 450.

Operations and maintenance cost between $35,000 and $317,000 per year at pools run by municipalities in the territory, depending on size, staffing and programming.

Teslin’s swimming pool may end up being attached to a new school, which the community hopes will be built in about a decade.

The community expects the pool will cost about half a million dollars.

Another major project on the horizon is planned upgrades and repairs to the Nisutlin Bay Bridge.

The Yukon government was ready to go ahead with that $14.5-million, two-project last year, but the tender was cancelled at the last minute.

The community asserted that more planning and study was required to minimize environmental impacts and maximize economic opportunities for residents.

“We want to be part of the discussion. We need to part of the discussion. It impacts the community greatly,” said Wirth.

The community needs time to train its citizens, he said. Yukon College is currently running an introduction to the trades program in Teslin.

“We’re trying to encourage citizens to be prepared to participate in these projects.”

The cancelled project meant that it missed the deadline to access the most recent round of the federal Building Canada Fund.

The Yukon government hopes that the next round of federal infrastructure funding will help pay for the project, but for now it’s on hold.

One of the things that makes Teslin special is the close working relationship between the Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council administrations, said Wirth.

“Teslin functions on doing things as a community, so First Nations work very closely with the municipality, and we try very hard to work as one community.”

Teslin’s deputy mayor, Gord Curran, said that relationship has grown and strengthened over the past 10 or 15 years.

“We have our separate spheres of influence and we respect those, but where we can find ways to work together we work through them,” said Curran.

“Now it’s not about ‘if,’ it’s just about ‘when,’ and we just assume we’re going to be working together where there are common areas. It’s been really beneficial for the First Nation and for the village, and most importantly, community members.”

This year alone the village and the First Nation have dozens of projects on the go, including new housing, road repairs and sewer lift station replacement.

“Teslin residents should line up, because we have jobs,” said Wirth.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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