Roma Denise Spencer Pool.
Roma Denise Spencer Pool.

Maranoa councillors debate free entry to the Roma pool

All Maranoa pool facilities will soon be free entry, however the decision to remove the entry price sparked yet another fiery debate between councillors about lack of information or consideration for community feedback or financial implications.

At the Maranoa Regional Council meeting on Wednesday February 10, mayor Tyson Golder sparked fiece opposition from a minority of his colleagues with his proposal that Roma Denise Spencer Swimming Pool entry fees should be scrapped, similar to how the Injune pool facility is operated.

Cr Golder moved for council to acknowledge the feedback from the community on pool entry fees and to call for tenders to manage the pool for a two-year period with the option for a further two x 1 year terms incorporating free admission as well as upgrading the facility’s CCTV system to allow for police to access it.

What is becoming a common divide in the Maranoa council chambers, doubts were raised by Crs Cameron O’Neil, Joh Hancock and Wendy Taylor about the feasibility of the motion and were concerned about making a decision with no business case in place or potential impact on ratepayers.

Cr Golder argued the benefits of removing entry fees would put “Maranoa on the map”.

“This is an opportunity for us to bring all the pools in line with offering liveability advantages in the Maranoa because general admission will be free … slowly this would have over time, and only when tenders come up,” Cr Golder said.

“One of the big things, when people ask the about the Maranoa – what are the advantages … we need more people to use our pools.

No information was provided to the councillors on the money generated by pool entry fees across the Maranoa on an annual basis or the potential impact scrapping the fees could have on ratepayers.

Cr Hancock said she was fed up with the lack of information provided before being asked to make important decisions.

“Once again, I’m disappointed as a councillor, we don’t have a costing for this … we don’t know how much it’s going to cost the ratepayer to subsidise entry into the pool,” Cr Hancock said.

“Right now, the tender put in the facts, they get that money, so I assume they are going to put up their rates, then that’s a cost to council but I don’t know how much that will be … so I can’t vote on something I don’t know the costings of.”

She said councillors received feedback from the Roma Swimming Pool Action Group who don’t believe the pool should have free entry.

“Don’t get me wrong, I agree with having affordable rates, they’re wonderful facilities … but I don’t believe it should be free entry,” Cr Hancock said.

“My other big concern is, once again we’re doing a blanket effect … rolling this out to every pool in the region.

“Have we not asked the other lessees what they think … I know one believes in affordable entry, not free entry because it becomes a workplace health and safety issue.

“It’s not due diligence to just do a blanket effect.”

It was only weeks ago when councillors were split on the decision to move ahead with the controversial organisational restructure, raising doubts about costings and community consultation actually taking effect.

Unlike the Injune pool which has free entry, Cr Taylor noted the Roma pool is heated by gas and only shuts for one month of the year, compared to Injune which shuts for several months during winter.

“I don’t believe we can afford to have it free … and I don’t think people would use it more if free,” Cr Taylor said.

“We won’t get the money back … at least the people using it, will be paying for it.

“I just don’t agree, people don’t expect something for nothing … they pay their rates, if they want to go the pool, then they pay to go to the pool.”

In response, deputy mayor Geoff McMullen said council absorbs the electricity and gas bill with the leasee not contributing to those fees.

“So, either way, no costs even if it’s free or not,” he said.

Cr O’Neil said the $6 entry for him and his daughter to use the pool was not a “huge cost”.

“At the end of the day, if I use the pool I’m happy to pay and I think others are too and that’s clear in the feedback,” he said.

“Not one of us is a pool manager and yet the feedback from managers is to leave it as it is and I think it’s sad we’re not taking on feedback we put out to consult.

“It surprises me, people willing to support it aren’t asking what it will cost and that’s poor, poor decision making because the people who will pay is the ratepayers and ratepayers who may never use the pool and that’s sad.

“We’ve had the debate whether the airport carpark should be free and I don’t think it should be free – you park, you pay for it.

“And I stress why make a decision when you don’t know the financial implications.”

Cr Golder’s motion was passed and supported by Crs McMullen, Mark Edwards, George Ladbrook, Guthrie and John Birkett.

In opposition was Crs Taylor, Hancock and O’Neil.

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