Knee-deep no more: Edmonton city councillors voted Tuesday to go ahead with renovations to the city hall wading pool which will see the depth go from the current 40 centimetres to just 15 centimetres.
“It’s going to actually, from my point of view, be better in the sense it’s going to be much more accessible to persons with disabilities,” Mayor Don Iveson said on Tuesday.
The pool upgrades coincide with rehabilitation work on Churchill Square.
But after the shallow pool plans were revealed, there was an uproar from the public, with council taking a second look at the plans.
City councillors heard from details from administrators about alternative forms of security and surveillance and concerns about the need to filter the water of a deeper pool more frequently.
There were also concerns surrounding building codes. In order to be compliant, the city would need to build a permanent two-metre-high fence, drain the pool every night or provide 24-hour security, the sides and bottom of the pool must be white in colour and there would need to be a washroom and change rooms built.
Late last year, city administration proposed three options: one that would make the pool shallower, and two others which keep the original depth but make the space safer.
The first was to reduce the depth of the water from 40 centimetres to 15 centimetres. Construction is expected to last for 13 months and will allow for the plaza to be reopened for the 2019 festival season. But the report said public feedback has not been favourable for that option.
Options 2 & 3
The report also looked at keeping the water at 40 centimetres deep and building either a two-metre-high fence or having 24-hour security. Both options would have required an additional $400,000 to upgrade the filtration system required for the larger volume of water and would have taken an additional six months, which could have impacted the 2019 festival season.
According to the report, the fence would have impacted overall aesthetics, flow and usage of the city hall plaza and 24-hour security would have been costly. The city said hiring staff, including dedicated overnight on-site security, would have cost an estimated $24,000 a year in operating costs.
Council voted 8-4 (one councillor was not present) to go with the original plan for a shallow pool, leaving several councillors upset.
“In the big scheme of things, this is not about the money,” Councillor Mike Nickel explained. “This is about the people and that’s why I spoke about the social return on investment that this pool had offered.”
With the shallow pool plan getting the green light, for some it raises questions about a disconnect between what the public wants and what city hall decides.
“Well, isn’t that a very good question and that’s what people should be asking,” suggested Councillor Aaron Paquette, a strong advocate for keeping the pool knee-deep.
Construction on the 15-centimetre-deep wading pool starts soon with plans to reopen it in the summer of 2019.
— With files from Vinesh Pratap, Quinn Ohler and Emily Mertz, Global News