Town needs to sink money into economic development not a pool

While a swimming pool might be a nice addition to the town, Morinville needs to focus on economic development. Editorial

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.

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  1. …as every reasonable home owner in town would agree. i guess we will just have to wait and see if that includes town council.

    There are a good many things that would be “nice” to have, its easy to come up with a whole list of them. Things that make sense to have tho, that can actually benefit the whole community long term are a little more elusive. Like sustainability and well thought out growth.

  2. it would be nice to have a pool,but we do need better shopping.a clothing store would be nice.what we do need is a study on highway trucks using the main streets.i watched many trucks with long trailers drive over the sidewalks to turn the corners,this town is too busy to have them drive threw town.

  3. Well thought out article Steve. The topic of a pool has been around since before I first ran for Town Council in 1985. At a public forum taht year the question was asked of all candidates “would you build a pool if you were elected?” My answer then was “if we build a pool we will all drown in it.” Figuratively meaning financially. We have heard of the “need” of a pool in Town for 25+ years. The Council has heard this and to get the facts 3-4 years ago engaged a firm to do a master open space and facility plan. Mr. Randal Conrad identified at that time that for a pool to lose “”Only”” 50% of the operating costs Morinville needs to have a population of 15,000 minimum. PLUS the surrounding draw area. His report also identified the need for a 16% tax increase to build a pool and further 16% increase to operate it. Compounded that is almost 35%. Nobody in Town has been offering their support for a tax increase of that magnitude just to have a pool. IF there was a ground swell of public support for that kind of tax increase for a pool I assure you I would be out in front of that parade so fast it would make your head spin. I have comments on the economic development issue as well. Not in this blog but perhaps in a future one. Short answer – I agree It’s time to change the focus to non-residential development. Not at the expense of the current housing focus but in addition. Thanks for the time.
    Lloyd Bertschi

  4. We dont need a pool, we need business, a place where we can all shop and support the town and people that we live in. I understand that parents with small children think this is good idea, but since I dont want it, why should I pay for it? My neighbour who has children (7 and 11 yrs old) went to Canadian Tire and bought her own pool for about $400, yup she wanted it and she paid for it.

  5. An indoor pool is something that really to the vitality of the community. I have read that 15,000 people are required to make a pool viable.

    Has Morinville (population of 6775) looked at how Barrhead ( population of 4209) and Westlock (Population of 5008) both manage to have a town indoor pool and make it viable? I have many friends in these areas and their house taxes are comparable and often times less than those in Morinville. What gives?

    I know that towns can obtain gov’t grants for building projects, so it can be done. It seems like the idea is just being brushed off too quickly because no one is brave enough to take it on. Yes there are costs, but think of the long term benefits to the community.

    A pool is an asset to the community. It keeps people playing in their own communities. If people stay and play in their communities they will also shop in their communities.

  6. Apparently the pro-pool people here have a metric ton of money to waste.

    I don’t want my property taxes raised. Especially when it’ll cost less than that to drive to St. Albert and use their pool when I feel like it. From what Lloyd has said above, a 35% tax increase would force me to move from the town.

    It’s NOT worth the cost to the town or the taxpayers. Especially if people are counting on the surrounding area to use it. They don’t pay Morinville taxes! Pretty much the same as me using the St. Albert one. At least I’m helping them a bit with their problem, rather than being enslaved to my own.

  7. Although I think a pool would be a nice thing to have in town I really don’t see an actual NEED for it. As others have said, economic development is certainly more important for our beautiful little town than a pool is. Let’s get more business, APPROPRIATE and NECESSARY business, to help support further growth in town before we think of scaring people away with the costs involved in a pool.

  8. Retail is available only 15 minutes away too, not to mention schools, parks, librairies, arenas, curling rinks, etc.

    Maybe just shut everything down and move to St. Albert.

    People should not be close-minded. Get accurate information and make a decision.

  9. I take my kids to the Fountain Pool on a regular basis for swimming lessons. So, if I have to travel to St.Albert in the first place, might as well shop there. If my kids had swimming lessons locally, I wouldn’t feel the need to travel to St.Albert and would shop locally. So, if you want residents to support local businesses then you need to provide them with services to keep them here. I have lived in a town that was half the size of this and they had a local pool and the property taxes was actually cheaper.

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