COUNCIL has been advised to drastically renovate the Griffith pool and hand over management to an external party after the current operation was deemed “not sustainable”.
The findings of an external audit into the Griffith Regional Aquatic Leisure Centre (GRALC) have been released ahead of tomorrow night’s council meeting, when councillors will decide a course of action to address the ill-fated facility.
Key recommendations in the report included building a new 25 metre outdoor swimming pool, upgrading or relocating the cafe, building a new barbecue outdoor dining space and outsourcing the management, according to auditors Denis Pontin and Neil Tredwell.
“A 25m x 12m recreation and lap pool as well as an integrated leisure pool or a separate “Splash Pad” for children is required,” the auditors said in the report.
“Investment in barbecues, outdoor furniture, shade and upgrading or relocating the cafe is required. Consideration must be given to outsourcing the entire operation or outsourcing the reception/administration, cafe/kiosk, swim school and fitness centre and only retaining the lifeguarding and maintenance.”
The pool, which was built in February 2000 at a cost of $4.8 million, has lost more than $3 million in the past four years.
The significant deficits incurred by the Learn-To-Swim program, kiosk and the fitness centre were of most concern.
“It appears from the financial information that the fitness centre is subsidised and it contributes to the operational deficit rather than reduces it,” the report said.
“The current creche is operating at a significant subsidy per child and ... should be reviewed to reduce costs significantly or closed until a new business case is established for the fitness centre.”
Griffith Business Chamber president Pat Pittavino was pleased an independent audit had been conducted and released publicly, but said it should have happened three years ago.
“A pool is an entrepreneurial business and maybe council doesn’t have the entrepreneurial skills or wherewithal to run it because they’re too used to saying, ‘we’re running at a loss so we’ll just put rates up’,” Mr Pittavino said.
“We are very pleased council has finally got around to it, albeit millions of dollars later.
“We do need a pool and theatre but the Chamber believes they could be run more efficiently and why couldn’t they be run on a private basis?”
The auditors also expressed concerns about the current practice of having only one lifeguard on duty which they suggested meant the council has an unacceptable level of risk at busy times.
Tomorrow night, councillors will decide whether or not they will adopt the report in-principle and undertake a comprehensive community consultation process.