School swimming pool out of bounds for community?

NEGOTIATIONS are reaching tipping point in Sarina over the community’s access to its local swimming pool.

The Daily Mercury understands there are ongoing discussions between Mackay Regional Council and the State Government with a view to allowing members of the public to continue to use the pool, which sits on the state high school grounds.

However, the Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club has accused Education Queensland and Sarina State High School of “trying to stop access to the pool”.

The club fears about 30 nippers could be left without somewhere to swim during school hours and residents fear they could be locked out of their local swimming pool, which is on Sarina State High School grounds.

The pool is owned by the Education Department, with a private operator running and maintaining the facility via a lease with council.

It’s not the first time the town has been uncertain about the pool’s future.

In 2014, over a different matter, only swimmers from the Sarina State High School could use the facility, and Sarina Surf Club on certain occasions throughout the week until the council secured a lease.

And the surf club said it and the community had to “actively fight for the pool to be open in 2010” too.

“A successful outcome was achieved for all parties involved (at that time).”

According to Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club president Neil John, the Pat Wright Swim School had not been offered a management contract for the 2017/18 summer season.

The school would train the surf clubs nippers at the pool on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

A Department of Education and Training spokesperson said the school and the department had a “long standing practice of making its facilities available to the community”.

“Decisions regarding community use of school facilities sit with the principal of the relevant state school,” the spokesperson said.

They said there was no management lease currently on the pool, but the department was negotiating with the council.

A letter from the Minister for Education Kate Jones to the Mayor of Mackay Regional Council said “principals and school communities are encouraged to be proactive in sharing school facilities…. however, community access and use of swimming pools carries a higher risk than that the use of other school facilities”.

Mackay councillor and Sarina resident Martin Bella said he hoped a resolution could be reached.

“I don’t think that our schools need to be segregated from the community. I don’t think the community is that dangerous,” Cr Bella said.

Cr Bella said he would be “extremely disappointed” if the pool was closed to the public during school hours.

He said there was no room or money for two pools in Sarina.

“I’m disappointed that this has occurred.”

The council’s CEO Craig Doyle says he was keen to maintain the arrangement that has been in place since 2010.

The Daily Mercury understands the council pays for maintenance costs of the pool.

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