Turner Valley residents will have warm water when going for a swim in the outdoor pool this summer, despite some reluctance among councillors to approve spending for upgrades.
Town council voted to allocate up to $110,000 from the Town’s capital reserve fund to replace the aging boiler at the Dr. Lander Memorial Outdoor Swimming Pool during its Jan. 22 meeting.
Craig Beaton, municipal operations and facilities manager, told council the pool’s 25-year-old boiler is past the 15-20 year life expectancy. He said problems with the boiler resulted in lost patrons last year.
“Typically the season starts off with pulling the boiler apart, cleaning the heating coils to make sure they are operational and preparing the boiler for operation throughout the season without too much difficulty,” he explained. “This past season we ran into a number of issues with coil corrosion requiring the boiler to be pulled apart multiple times and cleaned. Quite frequently the boiler would shut down overnight and the pool would be quite cool in the morning. We had a lot of complaints from our aqua-fit group in the early morning that it was 70-76 degrees, which was quite cool.”
While council approved the project, there were some concerns about allocating funds to it before the 2018 budget is complete.
Coun. Cindy Holladay initially said she was reluctant to support allocating the funds before council knows what other costs it will face in 2018. She agreed after hearing the urgency for its replacement in time for the upcoming season.
“My only concern is do we really not have a hope of getting to our capital budget in the next month?” she said. “I’m worried about putting the cart before the horse and approving this when we don’t know what’s coming to us.”
Beaton said a decision needed to be made immediately to have the boiler in place for the 2018 season.
“I want to award the project the first week of March to get it ready for the May opening,” he said. “I have to tender this out to a few contractors to get the best price and that is going to take some time. Once we find the best price I will have to have this awarded within the first week of March.”
Beaton said the existing boiler runs at 55 per cent efficiency in its current state and a new one would run at about 96 per cent efficiency. He said he isn’t sure how much it would end up saving the Town on operating costs, but that it would be “fairly significant.”
Beaton said the boiler is also a safety concern. Exhaust fumes are being blocked from going up the flue and when this happens it sets off the CO2 monitors. He said it results in excessive heat in the mechanical room and impacts other mechanical systems.
“Because the exhaust can’t escape it fills the room,” he said. “It’s a potential hazard for staff. Just to touch the boiler it was pretty hot. The new boilers don’t operate this way. You won’t have those issues.”
In an interview following the meeting, Beaton said Turner Valley’s outdoor pool was used by 8,564 patrons in 2017 down from 13,779 visitors in 2016.
He said usage often relates to weather, although last year he suspects there were numerous factors for the drop. He attributes it to Parks Canada’s free admission, several weeks of smoky air due to nearby fires and the pool’s cold morning temperatures.
“Three or four days a week the boiler would shut down throughout the night and we would have to fire it back up in the morning,” he said. “Most often our pool would be pretty cool in the morning.”
In addition, the Town had to refund swimming sessions because the pool closed for four days due to a pump failure, Beaton said. Although outdoor pools run a deficit, Beaton said they draw people to communities.
“The pool is certainly a service that the residents really enjoy,” he said. “I think parents feel confident that their children can wander down to the pool and spend a couple of hours there. It’s a wonderful facility for the locals and the MD and Okotoks.”
Beaton said it also employs 15 people in the summer.
“We hire a lot of local students,” he said. “Some of them come as far as Okotoks to work for us. It’s a great summer job for a lot of people.