Citizen advocates who fought to save Jackson Pool are thrilled Sarnia is getting government funds to replace the defunct facility in Germain Park.
“I’m so happy the direction was to go after this funding, and I look forward to working with the city to ensure that this much needed community pool is restored,” said Michelle Parks, who with residents Darren Nesbit and Dan Harding presented council with a 1,500-name petition in 2017.
“We still have a lot of interest in the community, including corporations, indicating they are willing to help with any funding shortfalls.”
Sarnia has been approved for about $1.4 million in provincial and federal money to build a new swimming pool, as well as accessible improvements to the change area, splash area, washrooms, entrance and seating, Ontario said.
The city must kick in $514,000 in matching funds.
Two other Sarnia funding applications were approved: just over $2 million for expansion of the Strangway Centre, and another $2 million for physical upgrades at the WMCA’s Jerry McCaw Family Centre.
Sarnia community services manager Stacey Forfar said council will consider the pool issue at budget discussions later this year.
The money is available until 2024, allowing time to work out possible designs and final cost estimates, she said via email.
A staff report will be prepared for September.
“There’s a number of things that are happening at the Germain space, a number of aging assets in there,” Forfar said. “It could be a great opportunity for a refresh and a revisit.”
Sarnia closed the Dr. John and Edith Jackson Pool in 2015 after a leaking foundation crack was discovered.
A 2017 staff estimate pegged repairs at $581,000, and $1 million to make it fully accessible.
For the previous council, the facility became a political hot potato; with staff recommending it be replaced with a less expensive splash pad and community gathering spot while a citizen group demanded a rebuilt pool.
Public consultations held later that year found 56% of residents in favour of a new pool at the East Street site, while 34% preferred the splash pad alternative.
Forfar said the report to council this fall could include other options besides a pool.
Council will likely want new a new round of public consultations to make sure support for the swimming pool is still strong, she said.
“There’s always fine print for these (grants)… but at this point in time it certainly is just direction for a pool.”