Bedford Park pool saved from cuts

[attach]5341[/attach]After much deliberation, Bedford Park Community Centre Pool has been saved.

Bedford Park’s pool was originally one of seven sites at which city staff recommended cutting funding for city-run programming in a bid to save $979,000.

The proposal proved to be a hot-button issue, inspiring parents and their kids from across the city to show up at city hall clad in goggles and swimsuits.

But on Jan. 9 the budget committee agreed to withdraw Bedford Park and Sir Wilfred Laurier Collegiate Institute in Scarborough from the list.

The cost of continuing to offer programming at the two pools will be about $295,000, with the money coming from the $8.8 million property tax surplus from 2011.

Residents such as Megan Segsworth, whose son Thomas swims regularly at Bedfork Park, are overjoyed to hear a funding cut is no longer a concern.

“We’re thrilled, it’s really good news for us,” Segsworth said. “But is it the end of the story? No.”

She said it’s still important to try and save the other five pools, as well as continue to work on a sustainable lease agreement for the remaining 28 shared-use pools.

“At the end of the day, there are still a lot of people whose pools’ leases expire this year,” she said. “And we still have to fight for them.”

The two pools were selected based on a motion by budget chair and Ward 39 councillor Mike Del Grande to keep city programming at facilities where the nearest pool was more than 3 kilometres away.

But some, including Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, were concerned about the selection process, pointing out that the two saved pools were in the wards of Ward 25 councillor Jaye Robinson and Ward 43 councillor Paul Ainslie, both executive committee members.

Matlow doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence.

“To willy-nilly say, ‘(Let’s) protect certain community assets that are in the wards of executive committee members’, seems like politics to me,” he said. “It seems completely arbitrary to me.”

He said the decisions should have gone through a more thoughtful and transparent process, based on criteria such as facility usage, state of repair and potential revenue sources.

“There are so many things to consider,” Matlow said. “To simply sort of draw a line on the map and say ‘That’s what we’re going to save’, that’s amateur hour. And it’s disingenuous.”

The remaining five pools are still on the chopping block. City council will vote on the budget on Jan. 17–19.