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‘We have to look at value for money’: Winnipeg mayor on proposed pool closures

Winnipeg mayor Scott Gillingham. Global News / File

Some community pools may be set to close, but Winnipeg’s preliminary multi-year budget, revealed Wednesday, will include more opportunities for the city’s young people to stay active.

That’s according to Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, who says the budget — which still has to go through a number of municipal committees and city council next month — reflects the importance of activities for young people, especially in the inner city.

The 2024-27 budget earmarks $20 million for 10 spray pads in neighbourhoods across Winnipeg, but with that comes the closure of Happyland and Windsor Park outdoor pools and the Eldon Ross indoor pool, and the decommissioning of numerous wading pools.

Gillingham told 680 CJOB’s The Start that in many cases, the pools in question are examples of aging infrastructure.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeggers can expect to pay more with proposed city budget'
Winnipeggers can expect to pay more with proposed city budget

“Some of them have been around since the early ’60s and so, frankly, they’re old assets. They’re worn out,” he said.

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“They require millions and millions of dollars in capital upgrades. The water table is rising right now, and that’s putting pressure on some of our outdoor pools.

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“The numbers at some of those pools, as far as attendance rates, has been dropping and so we have to look at value for money as well.”

Another factor in the decision, Gillingham said, was the difficulty the city has had in keeping its outdoor pools staffed with trained lifeguards — a problem that does not exist with spray pads.

“The biggest difference between a wading pool and a spray pad is we need to have two lifeguards or trained staff at every wading pool.”

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For every year of the proposed 2024-27 budget, the downtown YMCA would receive $150,000 to expand its youth programming, something the mayor said is a good investment to try to curb youth crime.

“We have restored the $2-million capital grant for community centre upgrades. There are community centres throughout our (city) — some of them closer to the centre of the city — that need upgrades,” he said.

“That capital grant was going to drop under $1 million, and we’ve restored it to $2 million now. ”

Gillingham said the city is still waiting to hear from the province about a planned rec centre for the Waverley West neighbourhood, and the budget also accounts for a facility in southeast Winnipeg.

Click to play video: 'City of Winnipeg budget preview'
City of Winnipeg budget preview

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