Ararat - A massive turnout at a rally in support of the Ararat Outdoor Olympic Swimming Pool has given the Save our Pool committee hope that the pool is not dead in the water yet.
More than 1500 people turned out to the rally on AFL grand final day, bearing placards in support of the pool and vocalising their anger towards Ararat Rural City Council and support for retention of the pool, following the announcement two weeks ago that Council would permanently close and demolish the pool.
Council based its decision on the cost factor to the community, including a possible rate rise of 4.4 per cent per annum to cover the ongoing costs.
Save our Pool committee member Ambrose Cashin, who has pushed for two years for the redevelopment of the pool, said this 4.4 per cent rate raise equated to a mug of coffee per month or around $50 per year, based on the average rates in Ararat.
When Mr Cashin called for a show of hands for people willing to accept a rate rise of this amount, a unanimous showing of hands demonstrated the level of support for the pool
"Unanimously they didn't care if their rates went up 50 or 60 dollars to fund it," Mr Cashin said.
"It seems to me that if people can see something for their rates they are prepared to wear these increases if they're getting value for money."
Four Ararat Rural City Councillors attended the meeting and were given the opportunity to speak including Mayor Cr Ian Wilson, and councillors Gwenda Allgood, Gary Hull and Ian Harris
Cr Gary Hull prompted cheers from the huge crowd when he said that both he and Cr Allgood had submitted a rescission motion to Council for the October meeting to prevent the demolition of the pool.
"Sometimes it takes this type of thing for things to change in a place the size of Ararat," he said.
"The most disappointing thing the other night at the council meeting was that it was voted on to demolish the pool," he said.
Cr Hull acknowledged that the Federal and State governments did not want to fund redevelopment of the pool.
"But coming up to an election things can change," he said.
"It's not dead in the water, but to demolish it that finishes it and I don't think the people here want that, and it's certainly not what I want.
"But what we do need to do, you have to talk to the other councillors. We need four votes in that chamber to change that decision.
"It's no good bashing them on social media - that's no different to parliament, if you push them into the corner you might get the opposite result.
"You have to talk to the other councillors to make them see that the community doesn't want to see it go."
After seeing the turnout Mayor Cr Ian Wilson agreed to place the pool issue back on council's agenda and will raise the issue at council's closed to the public Council Assembly meeting today.
"When we live in a democracy it is really great that people have the chance to challenge the decisions that have been made and be involved in those decisions," he said.
With the pool an emotive issue in the community Cr Wilson also asked people to be respectful of councillors and their families.
"But by all means challenge the decisions, whether it be council or State government or Federal government but bring it back to making comments on the decisions, and don't necessarily attack individual people or their families in relation to matters," he said
"The swimming pool is an extremely important issue to the people, demonstrated by the people here today and councillors or elected representatives of the community don't shy away from that.
"But we also have to make decisions for the whole community and everyone understands that."
Cr Wilson said working with members of the Save our Pool committee, Council had come to a position of 'fairly solid figures'.
He said they weren't guesstimates, and the figures quoted in the media were 'fairly accurate' figures.
"I undertake today that I will personally reintroduce the issue of the pool at our next Assembly on Tuesday.
"(But there is) absolutely no decision made by councillors at that Assembly, or that are binding on the Council or ratepayers.
"We will have some frank discussions among ourselves to determine which way we will proceed from this point on and as soon as we have a position I will articulate that with everybody in the Ararat community as best that I can."
Mr Cashin said he appreciated the fact that the councillors had attended.
"It was a tough gig for them to show up. Some of the crowd weren't that happy with them, but they handled themselves well," he said.
"For those councillors that didn't show up, (we'd like them to know) about a sixth of the community showed up so it shows significantly they want the pool," he said.
Going forward Mr Cashin said the committee would now wait to hear back from council after its Assembly meeting.
"Obviously they are relooking at it, but just how far they go with it is something time will tell," he said.
Mr Cashin encouraged everyone to write or email Council with their support of the pool.
He also encouraged people to turn out in large numbers at the next Council meeting on October 15, which he hoped would be moved to a bigger venue, but urged them to inform Council that they would be attending.
Mr Cashin was thrilled with the turn out at Saturday's rally and said it showed just how important the pool was to the community.
He was also pleased that Council had agreed to place the issue back on the agenda.
"Where there's life there's hope," he said.