Architects dove into the first of the Multi-plex (pool) stakeholder engagement sessions on May 21 and 22. The sessions, in the District of Port Hardy municipal hall, were conducted by HDR/CEI who have been chosen as the architects for the new complex.
The goal of the meetings was to get input from stakeholder groups such as: federal and provincial service providers; businesses, schools and daycares; First Nations; frequent pool users; health authorities, etc., on what they would liked to see in the facility.
Architect Mark Hentze gave a recap of the day’s meetings at the last session of the day for municipal government and media representatives. While the Town of Port McNeill, Village of Port Alice, Alert Bay and the Regional District of Mount Waddington were invited to attend this particular meeting, not one did. “They were no shows,” said Hentze. “I guess they thought that if they came, they’d have to open a chequebook,” joked District of Port Hardy Councillor Fred Robertson.
Despite some notable gaps in attendance, Western Forest Products was also absent, “it’s been a pretty neat day. We’ve got great feedback,” said Hentze. One recurring theme that had developed over the course of the first day, said Hentze, was that everyone keeps referring to the complex as a ‘gathering’ place. They don’t see is as just a pool, but a place to meet and socialize. “We’re not designing a swimming pool, we’re building a meeting place,” said Hentze.
Several North Island businesses attended a session during the day, and said that, as residents, the pool complex is important to them, however, it is also vital in terms of attracting and retaining staff. “They saw the swimming pool proposal as a catalyst in the community,” Hentze said, “something that enriches the experience (of living here) for people.”
In discussions with the schools, Hentze was surprised to learn how significant the pool is, and that swimming “is a core piece to the programs” offered by them. Robertson said he feels the district “should not be competing with existing businesses in town”, for instance, by putting a gym into the facility. “In my dream world, I would move this building (the town office) and put the pool here,” so that the multiplex is more visible, said Deputy Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt adding she has heard suggestions from citizens that the new multiplex should have a lazy river, wave pool, water slide, diving boards, a room for birthday parties, and “a hot tub that fits more than six people, and is hot.”
Things like a wave pool and water slides would require more staffing, said Corbett-Labatt. At the end of the day, the District will present a plan to the public and say “this is the dream, this is the cost” and let them whittle it down to a “reality” they are comfortable paying for, Corbett-Labatt said. “Our town finances are really pretty good at the moment,” said Mayor Hank Bood. “Over the last 10 years our (debenture) payments have been in the neighbourhood of $500,000 to $800,000 a year. In 2017, that payment goes down to about $50,000. We can do this project. I have no doubt about it,” Bood said.
The district will be seeking grant dollars which involve a one third partnership between the municipal, provincial and federal governments and Bood is convinced “we can do that under our present financial circumstances.”
Bood believes the $20 million plan should be presented to citizens and “whittle it down to what we can afford through public opinion. “People are ready for something new an shiny.” Robertson said he wants to be sure the plans include energy efficiency.”I am horrified at the (District’s) hydro bill,” agreed Corbett-Labatt.
Hentze and his team spent about an hour with Marine Harvest representatives discussing the potential for synergies between the multiplex and the Port Hardy processing plant. Because both facilities use pumps, filtration systems, etc. it was felt that working together, the two might be able to get parts more easily and/or faster than they could on their own.
“It was a very interesting detour in the conversation,” said Hentze. District of Port Hardy Chief Administrative Officer Allison McCarrick talked about how initially she, personally, had been against the idea of family change rooms until she saw the concept in person. Councillor Pat Corbett-Labatt agreed. “I am so on board with that,” Corbett-Labatt said, adding that a video “of what a family change room looks like” should be shown at the public sessions.
Plans for the old pool building were also discussed. Hentze said people seemed to be in favour of uses, such as an indoor soccer field, that embrace a broader number of people than squash courts, for instance, that would make 12 citizens very happy. “I like the idea of things that appeal to an older demographic,” agreed Robertson.
Public design sessions will be next on the agenda in June. A referendum will be held in October to decide the fate of the project. To that point $264,000 will have been spent on designs, etc.