Even the city of St. Catharines has had to make some tough decisions regarding its outdoor pools. On March 30, St. Catharines Council voted to close five pools in the city, citing failing attendance and high costs of rehabilitation. The projected savings to the taxpayers would be $228,000.
But, according to an article in The St. Catharines Standard, all hope is not lost for the Burgoyne Woods Pool. Due to a valiant community fundraising effort, over $80,000. of the $100,000. needed to operate the pool has been raised and it is expected that council will approve a staff report recommending the Burgoyne Woods Pool be opened in July, using the community donations.
Is there a lesson in this latest development? Yes, there is. Remember when there was a big effort to raise funds for the Kinsmen Pool? Started by a young woman who wanted to save the pool for future generations. She was pushed aside by Stephen Passero who became the "leader" of the effort. When he realized that it takes a lot of work to fund-raise, he put it on the back burner while he set his sights on public office. Once elected as Ward 1 Councillor, he did little or nothing to advance the cause of the pool until he decided to run for mayor. Then he suddenly hauled out some vague deal with a social club of divers. Didn't help him get elected mayor, but the tragic death of Ward 2 Councillor Rick Shular opened another opportunity for Passero to get into the political trough. So, he used the Kinsmen Pool once again to lull people into thinking that, through his efforts, the pool would open again this summer. Got him elected to Shular's vacant seat thanks to his friends from the Chamber of Commerce, already on council who ignored a staff recommendation to appoint the runner-up in the October 2014 election instead, voted to hold an expensive ($30,000.+) by election.
Now, people are patiently waiting for the promised opening of the Kinsmen Pool in July. Too bad Fort Erie didn't have someone like Jan Cook working to raise funds for the pool. Mr. Cook has been "working the phones" for two months and is very close to the $100,000. goal that will enable the children of St. Catharines to enjoy the pool from July 11 to September 4. All thanks to the people and businesses of St. Catharines.
Of course, the pools in St. Catharines were not allowed to get to the deplorable state of the Kinsmen Pool. At least the town recreation department seemed to have been run by a sober, qualified person, a far cry from the political hanger-on who held the post for years in Fort Erie. One of the old "hockey boys" of yore who was too busy taking care of his own bidness to worry about keeping the only pool in Fort Erie in good running condition. Now it's a money pit with a huge price tag to bring it up to code and operation. Far too much for a small social club to finance on its own and there is little grant money available for a crumbling mess that should be totally replaced. So, guess who will ultimately pay for the Kinsmen Pool refurbishment? Taxpayers who will already be hit in the pocketbook due to the budget of the new council.
I feel sorry for the kids in Fort Erie who don't have a supervised, safe place to swim. We had such an outdoor pool in my old neighbourhood in Buffalo. It was built decades ago and is still operating every summer. Why? Because it has been taken care of and it sits in a busy family neighbourhood.
Good luck to the people of St. Catharines. Good job!
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