ARARAT - The Ararat community is being urged to turn out in big numbers tomorrow to show its support for the retention and redevelopment of the Ararat Outdoor Olympic Swimming Pool.
This is despite Ararat Rural City Council agreeing at its meeting last week to close and demolish the pool.
The Save our Pool committee has found the community backlash on social media overwhelming and has agreed to front a public rally tomorrow at the Ararat War Memorial.
Headed by Ambrose Cashin and Maddy Vernon, the Save our Pool committee has campaigned for almost two years for the retention and redevelopment of the pool, working with Ararat Rural City Council officers and Etch Architects to provide a reduced cost plan after council initially said the project would cost in the order of $4.1 million.
Once the project went to tender this year, this cost was reduced to $2.5 million, however, council believed it was not viable and would involve a $1.9 million loan, ongoing annual costs of $469,000 and a 4.4 per cent rate rise per annum.
With the initial public meeting in February 2012 attracting more than 1000 people, the Save our Pool committee is hoping for at least that many people to attend the rally tomorrow.
"If not many show up then council are probably quite within their rights not to proceed, if the community feedback I'm getting is that so many want it, well if they haven't got time to show up on Saturday, if they're too busy, then they really aren't committed to it," Mr Cashin said.
The Save our Pool committee has also challenged Ararat Rural City councillors to attend the meeting and explain their decision.
"We asked them could they put the decision off for one month so we could explain our cost cuts, and no doubt they would have had a very sound reason why they couldn't put it off for one month, but perhaps they could show up Saturday and explain it to the community," he said.
Mr Cashin said the committee had revised its costings since the council decision last week and had come up with even more significant cuts.
"We've worked it out, with the cuts we could bring in, there would be a rate rise, but it would be the equivalent of a cup of coffee per month per ratepayer," he said.
Mr Cashin agreed that council have the right to make this decision, however the committee was disappointed that council didn't agree to allow the committee another month to bring forward further possible cuts to the overall cost of the redevelopment.
"And if in that month they were able to show us where we are wrong, then we would be completely united in their decision," Mr Cashin said.
Council at its meeting last week also brought forward the possibility of resurrecting the idea of multi-use recreation facility incorporating an indoor and outdoor pool, which has mystified the committee.
"Throughout the 18 months of negotiations, never once has this new facility been brought into the negotiation and one of the questions I'd like to ask Cr Ian Harris (who posed the possibility of such a project), if we can't afford $2.5 million to redevelop and rejuvenate this facility, how can we afford $20 million for a new facility," Mr Cashin said.
"It appears to me if you can't afford a bicycle, you can't afford to go and buy a Rolls Royce.
"It has never, ever been brought into the negotiations."
When it came to spending ratepayers' money, Mr Cashin said a separate council decision last week to fund an upgrade to the Barkly Street/Gordon Street intersection at a cost of $40,000 disappointed the committee.
"Talk about funds that aren't available! We have to stick within the budget, yet the council voted to spend $40,000 unbudgeted money to fix up a nature strip which is no busier than any other intersection," he said.
Mr Cashin hoped that a large turnout at tomorrow's rally would also be attended by councillors.
"If the mayor and other councillors are so confident in what they have delivered, one would think they would have the courage of their convictions to show up and face their ratepayers," he said.
"If they believe what they've done is for the betterment of their community they can explain it to us all and we'll all walk away happier."
Mr Cashin said if the white ribbon campaign at the pool, whereby thousands of ribbons have been tied to the pool fence in support of the project, is any indication, the committee was hoping for a good turnout tomorrow.
The War Memorial was chosen as the venue for the public rally, as the social media community wanted a public venue.
"We apologise to shop keepers there, but the public wanted it in a public place," Mr Cashin said.
"And we figure out the front of the War Memorial is an appropriate place.
"The people who fought for this country, a lot of those returned and helped build the pool.
"They fought for freedom and a better way of life so it could not be a more appropriate place to have it."
The pool rally will be held at 10.30am tomorrow at the Ararat War Memorial.
Those who attend are reminded that the Ararat Eisteddfod is currently on at the Ararat Performing Arts Centre and to not impede access to the centre for participants.