By Stephen Dafoe
The latest edition of the Free Press asks the question “Is a public pool in Morinville’s future?” The article doesn’t answer the question or tell us anything we didn’t already know. There are no immediate plans for a pool to be built in Morinville and the Town is presently conducting another survey, this time in conjunction with Sturgeon County.
The results of the “needs assessment” survey won’t be revealed to the two councils until later this fall. So we’ll all have to sit and wait (probably until after the election) to see how important a communal swimming hole is to residents.
Perhaps with the almost certainty that Morinville Town Council will not be given their seats by acclamation this time around, perhaps the words “community pool” will be tossed around like the waves after someone has taken a dive into the deep end. If they are, those politicians espousing such ideas may be playing to a small audience and may well be taking a dive off the high board into the shallow end.
In 2009 Morinville residents were given the opportunity to provide additional comments in a Leger Marketing survey. Of the 55 per cent who did choose to voice additional thoughts, only 6 per cent expressed a desire for a swimming pool. Even in the body of the survey, the desire for a pool ranked low. Of those satisfied with life in Morinville, only 4 per cent expressed an interest in having a pool. That figure grew to 6 per cent among those who consider life in town moderately satisfactory. And only 7 per cent of those who were dissatisfied with life in Morinville felt a pool was a desirable recreational accoutrement. Across the board, regardless of their level of satisfaction, less than 10 per cent of Morinville residents surveyed said they would like a pool.
By contrast, property taxes and their increase was an issue to 17 per cent of residents surveyed, followed by 12 per cent of respondents who felt expansion and new development was important.
Swimming pools are a nice thing for a community to have. So are smooth roads, water lines that don’t break every other week, and property taxes that keep people living in Morinville and make it affordable for new people to move here. We’re batting two for three on the above.
One of the things that Morinville can take pride in is that it seems to be focusing its tax dollars on infrastructure, keeping the roads smooth and the water lines intact. And by utilizing federal and provincial grant and stimulus money to its full advantage and redirecting its share of speeding ticket money, Morinville will have a new community centre without dipping into ratepayer’s pockets for the bulk of it.
But no matter how absolutely wonderful it would be for the town to have a pool to call its own, the reality is that swimming pools are holes in the ground into which you pour water and money – often in equal measure. Erecting a pool in a town of less than 8,000 when a pool already exists less than fifteen minutes away in St. Albert could necessitate dipping into ratepayer’s pockets, creating even higher property tax bills.
What Morinville lacks at the moment is not recreational amenities or access to them. What it lacks is a strong retail, industrial and commercial sector to help shoulder and share some of the tax burden away from the property owner.
By focusing on and enhancing Morinville’s economic development, we will be able to replace the businesses already lost on our main streets, lower or maintain property taxes for home owners, and continue to grow a community that attracts both businesses and residents.
By taking steps in their proper sequence, we would one day have a balanced tax base and enough money in the coffers to warrant those luxurious amenities that surveys show only a minority of people want.