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Cache Creek council considers permanent pool closure

Council has directed to staff to look into the cost of permanently closing the 50-year-old facility
The future of the Cache Creek pool is once more up for discussion by council, with a direction to staff to assess the cost of closing the facility permanently. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

At their meeting on April 2, Cache Creek council rescinded a previous motion directing staff to take action to reopen the pool for the 2024 season, then passed motions directing staff to look into the possibility of providing transportation so that residents could access swimming elsewhere, and to investigate the financial implications of permanently closing the Cache Creek pool. All council members were present except Coun. Kelly Debert.

The original motion regarding reopening the pool was passed at the Feb. 5 meeting. At the next meeting, on Feb. 20, staff presented a report outlining the village’s financial situation. Last year Cache Creek faced a budget shortfall of $249,000, with shortfalls of between $255,000 and $281,000 projected yearly from 2024 to 2028.

These shortfalls do not take into account the estimated cost of repairing the pool to ensure it is operational (between $107,000 and $142,500 if no other deficiencies are found), or the cost of running the pool for the season (an additional cost of between $194,605 and $230,105 depending on how long the pool is open for).

The village is also facing financial challenges posed by the substantial flooding in 2023, with more than two dozen projects resulting from that event. The projected cost of the recovery projects — with at least one substantial project, the Quartz Road culvert replacement, not yet costed out — is between $5 and $7 million. Although most of the costs will be covered by other levels of government, the village must cover the remaining costs.

Mayor John Ranta and Coun. Carmen Ranta — both of whom supported the Feb. 5 motion to reopen the pool — were absent from the Feb. 20 meeting, although they were available by phone. The three members of council who were in attendance in person voted to put the Feb. 5 direction on hold, and to revisit it at a future date.

At the April 2 meeting, Coun. Ranta noted the many discussions about the pool, which was last open for the 2019 season. “In my heart I really wish that the Cache Creek pool could open this year… The projected costs of the flood recovery, and the current work load for the village, is part of the reason why I am moving to rescind the motion to open the pool this year.”

She also noted the challenge of finding enough lifeguards to staff the pool, citing the fact that a number of lifeguards who had previously worked at the Ashcroft pool were not returning this season. “There is going to be a big challenge even for one swimming pool in the area to be able to open.”

The financial report presented on Feb. 20 stated that the village’s Landfill Legacy Fund has been used over the years to cover budget shortfalls. As of Dec. 31, 2016 the fund stood at $3,033,969; as of Dec. 31, 2024 the balance was $976,000. Coun. Ranta said that she felt the fund should be maintained as much as possible as a reserve for future emergencies, and that it should not be depleted for the purposes of opening the pool.

Coun. Ranta then presented a motion directing staff to explore the possibility of transportation options to assist residents of Cache Creek to access swimming in other communities. Coun. David Dubois said he felt there was value in engaging with BC Transit to see about adjusting the schedule of the community bus that runs between Clinton, Cache Creek, and Ashcroft to align with the Ashcroft pool hours.

Coun. Ranta said that she did not see the service as being a daily one, suggesting it could be twice a week. She also acknowledged that there could be a question as to whether children would be able to ride the bus unaccompanied, but felt that it was worth looking into.

The third motion, also proposed by Coun. Ranta, was to direct staff to look into the cost of permanently closing the pool and the implications for the 2024 budget and the five-year financial plan.

She noted that according to her calculations, it has cost the village some $127,000 over the past four years to maintain the pool while it was closed, as it needs to be kept full of water year-round: “Just under $100 per day cost to having it sit in the state that it is right now, because of the cost of circulation [of the water] and heat during the winter.

“I am a big advocate of recreation facilities and the value of a swimming pool in our community … but I really feel that the responsible thing to do is to stop this expenditure of money that is going into a facility that is continuously going to cost the community more and more money every single day as it sits there waiting for a courageous council that’s willing to do the very difficult thing and permanently close the pool.”

However, she acknowledged that residents deserved to have a say in the decision, which was why she wanted staff to provide information about the financial implications of closing the pool, so that the matter could be discussed during the upcoming budget talks.

“This motion will put into play a discussion of the permanent closure of the pool with the community during our budget discussion. It is not a motion to implement the closure of the pool on a permanent basis. It’s to put it out there with clear information for the community … including the various funds that we have, what can be used, the amount of money the village has in reserve funds and the legacy fund, and the tax implications of having the pool open vs. having the pool closed.”

She added that permanently closing the pool would involve more than just putting a padlock on the gate, and that there would be costs associated with shutting down the pool in a responsible way. “It’s not going to be free to tidy up the property and to make sure that the park is not impacted by the negative appearance of the pool on an ongoing basis.”

Coun. Ranta said that while she would probably be willing to pay a tax increase in order to open the pool, she was not speaking for the entire community, and that many people in Cache Creek are finding the times financially challenging. “I’d feel badly putting many people in a bind trying to keep an aging facility like the Cache Creek pool open going forward.”

Mayor Ranta proposed an amendment asking staff to get an appraisal for the pool property as it sits. “We’ve got a huge investment in the pool facility,” he said. “To contemplate permanently closing the pool without knowing what the value of it is, is rather irresponsible.”

CAO Damian Couture pointed out that as it would likely take time to arrange for and get an appraisal, that information would probably not be available for discussion for this year’s budget, which must be filed by May 14. Coun. Sue Peters wondered if council should be spending the money on an appraisal, and Mayor Ranta replied that he felt it was important information for council to have before they considered a potential permanent closure of the pool.

Couture said that as it has been some years since the village had an appraisal done he could not estimate a cost, but said he felt that it would likely be less than $5,000. The amendment passed, with a restriction (proposed by Coun. Ranta) that if the cost of the appraisal is likely to be more than $4,000, staff report back to council for further direction on getting the property appraised.

Barbara Roden

About the Author: Barbara Roden

I joined Black Press in 2012 working the Circulation desk of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal and edited the paper during the summers until February 2016.
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