MARATHON – The ongoing pressure from the public to voice their concerns about the recent Port Hole Pool closure appears to have reached its conclusion, as the municipality has stated “the matter is resolved and [they] don't see the need for an open public forum at this time,” according to resident Ty Ruetz.
Ruetz, who had called for a public meeting over the issue on social media, said while he accepts that stance from Mayor Rick Dumas, he remains concerned about the availability of local recreational opportunities.
In an interview, Ruetz said Dumas conveyed the municipality had little choice in the matter during an hour-long conversation.
“They had communicated everything that there was to communicate and there wasn't much that could change the decision, because they were just following the guidelines of the professional engineer who gave the report. There's not much leeway in their decision there,” said Ruetz.
He added that while a public meeting is not expected, Dumas had emphasized that he and the town council are open to discussing any concerns with the public individually.
“One of the things that the mayor discussed with me in our meeting was that he's one of the more active users of the pool,” said Ruetz. “His grandchildren are there all the time. So it was a big loss for him personally as well… It's a personal loss for everybody, including the administration, town council and the mayor.”
As a result of numerous maintenance issues affecting the pool, the municipality decided that closure was in the best interest of public safety.
Nevertheless, there were concerns that the Active Living Centre had coincided with the timing of the closure.
“I think that that makes a strong case for their new active living center plan because this is such an aged building,” Ruetz said. “Many of the councillors had already sort of spoken to that in the previous meetings. To put money into this building. For example, $5 million just to bring it up to the standards of a 40-year-old building, it is still a 40-year-old building.”
Dumas told Ruetz that discussions surrounding the Active Living Centre will be had by Council in the coming months. These discussions will involve potential funding opportunities, with a final decision expected by the new year.
However, Ruetz believes that there are still opportunities to invest in the Port Hole Pool if the municipality’s potential funding opportunities fall through.
Ruetz explains, “I think part of the concern from the community is if there are any issues with the funding for this new project, then they may have delayed the opportunity to repair this existing facility. I think that that's still something that could potentially be in conversations if they do run into a dead end with the new project. I think they're very optimistic that it will progress forward with a new project.”
The pool's annual budget was a subject of concern for the public. With the pool's operating budget of approximately $200,000, residents were concerned about how the money was spent throughout the year.
Half of the amount was spent during the spring, “and the remainder will go into the town's reserve funds.” Ruetz commented.
“His main response to that was that it would be put back into the reserve fund and used for you know, whatever else is approved by Council down the road. And then certainly in, in next year's budget meetings, they have to address where that funding will be moving towards,” he said.
Ruetz advises that people be aware of this year's budget meetings to settle any concerns about the reallocation of the pool operating budget.
Reutz also weighed in on one avenue the municipality is considering to fill the gap in aquatic recreation, opening up a potential swimming program at Penn Lake.
“I think there's been some criticism about the suggestion of that in the community on Facebook. As far as not everybody is excited about swimming in Pen Lake. We typically have in August issues where people are getting swimmers itch in there and in the Cove beach area in Lake Superior. So, that's a concern and it's only available in the summertime,” said Reutz.
“I think the big draw for the pool was that it's available through the winter. There's not a lot to do in Marathon in the winter time and this was kind of one thing as an indoor option that families could go and do. Penn Lake doesn't solve any of those problems.”