by Chris Pickup

Haldimand councillors are apparently going into full campaign mode after a proposal at committee of the whole tax talks March 7 that Haldimand County establish a new reserve fund.

The “Growing Communities Reserve Fund” would be used for the implementation and operation of large municipal projects and services, such as pools, park improvements, community initiatives and recreational centres.

Funding would come from the 20% unallocated component of the Community Vibrancy Fund, along with an annual transfer of $750,000 from the Hydro Legacy Fund’s investment earnings generated by the sale of Haldimand County Hydro, and by contributing $150,000 from a one time 0.25% increase in the overall tax levy for 2018.

Both Caledonia Councillor Craig Grice and Dunnville Councillor Bernie Corbett have jumped onto social media rallying the troops for indoor pools.

Of course, Caledonia could have had an indoor pool decades ago, funded by the province from lottery funds. In fact, one of McKinnon Park Secondary School’s walls was designed to easily accommodate a pool building addition.

The funding was right there, and the province actually took out an ad in the Regional News to announce the fact, but the council of the day, led by Marie Trainer, had been elected on campaign promises of austerity and took into account the annual costs of maintaining the pool before turning the funding down.

In the fall of last year councillor Rob Shirton, exasperated with Dunnville residents bombarding Corbett with complaints on the mismanagement of the Dunnville waterfront project, essentially tried to shut them up by announcing he was working on trying to get an indoor pool.

Then at the public town hall meeting after Dunnville’s year end review, the following written statement was made:

“Staff have provided Members of Council an estimated costing for an indoor pool. The capital cost would be approximately $12-20 million with annual operating costs of between $500,000 to $1 million.

“There are no grants available at this time for building swimming pools. With approved Community Partnership the county’s share would be 35% ($3,024,000). The balance to be raised by the community would be 65% ($5,616,000). There has been no formal indoor pool discussion at council nor has it found its way to the priority list.”

So now just over two months later we’re looking at the possibility of two pools and their operating  costs? What’s changed besides the fact this is a campaign year, and council is facing a lot of criticism? Throw the masses a bone they can bite on and and send their attention in a new direction?

I’m not necessarily opposed to an indoor pool as such; it’s the cynical manipulation from the county that bites.

Discussion on the new fund will come up at a council meeting later this month.