INNISFAIL – The town has cut Innisfail Aquatic Centre booking fees in half for COVID weary citizens who need a pandemic break.
For the past few weeks council members and administration have been wrestling with the hourly cost issue at the aquatic centre, with some council members noting other communities have cut their rates to give financially challenged citizens an opportunity to take a pleasure dip in the local swimming pool at an affordable price.
Administration took on the task of researching the issue and came back to council on April 12 with a recommendation the Community Services Rates and Fees Bylaw be amended to offer reduced rates for private aquatic centre bookings in response to facility usage limitations that have resulted from COVID-19 restrictions. Council unanimously approved the motion.
“I think it is a worthwhile initiative to help families out during COVID. I think at a temporary measure it is a good thing,” said Coun. Danny Rieberger of the temporary measure that will see the hourly rates for private booked gatherings cut in half.
“We just can’t base it on what the rates of other communities are. I think it is reasonable for our citizens and that is why I agreed with it and voted for it.”
Meghan Jenkins, the town’s director of community services, told council the current hourly pool rental rate is $110 an hour. She reminded council it had previously indicated a rate of about $45 for 45 minutes was preferable, subject to input from aquatic centre staff.
Council was told staff identified that various rental slot times could be managed, such as half an hour, 45 minutes and one hour.
Jenkins said it was administration's recommendation a rate of about $1.08 per minute be advanced as it closely reflected the $65 per hour rate charged to local youth sports groups, such as that for the swim club and water polo team.
The temporary hourly pool rentals are only available for groups from within one household, council was told.
Council also heard the new $65 per hour rate will remain in effect until July 31 but can be extended if ongoing provincial COVID restrictions continue to limit communal swimming.
Mayor Jim Romane said he approved of the initiative as the mental wellness of the community is paramount through the pandemic, and lowering the prices gives every citizen the opportunity to enjoy themselves at an affordable price.
“The pool is sitting there not being used that much anyways because of the limitations from Alberta Health Services on aquatic centres,” said Romane. “But if this is what it takes, to get people out with their families and get some exercise and have some fun for an hour or so. I think a lot of communities have gone ahead with this thought."
“I think it will be good. It is not going to impact the whole community but there are some who are having things difficult to find, like recreation and things to do that isn’t limited,” he added. “Go down to the pool and have some fun.”