PERSPECTIVE: Aaron Cosbey on the Rossland Swimming Pool Society’s past and future
Aaron Cosbey is a member of the Rossland Swimming Pool Society (RSPS) and a director on the pool’s board. Currently the RSPS is undergoing a transition in which the society will become a city institution. Andrew Bennett interviewed Cosbey by telephone to find out how this transition was decided upon, how it’s taking place, and how the RSPS has been involved in the grant application the city forwarded to make the pool a four season facility.
Bennett: I understand the RSPS decided to transfer itself to the city last fall. Before the transfer, what was the pool’s relationship to the city?
Cosbey: The movement to the city was a long slow process over a number of years. The relationship between the pool and the city has a long history. Annually, the city has put $26,000 of funding into the pool every year for a long time, plus a long tradition of in-kind contributions. The recreation director [who organizes programming for the pool] is on city staff.
It’s not an assessment of infrastructure. It’s an architect’s design and budget for a year-round pool, and an engineer’s report on what has to be done to make the year-round pool happen.
Cosbey: The board [of directors] used to be made up of people who knew what was going on at the pool. They were hands-on and could assess the stability of pool, the concrete, the pipes. Over time, however, the board morphed into people who were well-intentioned, but knew nothing of the running—like me. There weren’t enough of those skilled people on hand to do the job. And there were fewer people involved, and those that were involved couldn’t seem to find the time—there was no quorum at meetings, people weren’t coming out.
Bennett: How was it decided to transfer the RSPS to the city?
Cosbey: In a last ditch effort we organized a media blitz to attract new people. We got a few interested volunteers, but only just enough to keep it going. We came to the conclusion that if it wasn’t run by us, but by the city instead, it wouldn’t look a whole lot different. It might even be better, because the city can do the kind of regular maintenance and upkeep that we weren’t doing well enough.
Bennett: Was the city involved in these discussions?
Cosbey: No, the discussion was entirely driven by the volunteers. The city never approached us or asked for it. In fact, we thought they might not want to have it.
Bennett: When you approached the city, what happened then?
Cosbey: As we manage the transition, rather than dissolve the society and make the pool a city-owned asset, their suggestion was that it would be better to maintain it as a society. We would simply transfer it from the existing members and board to city staff.
Bennett: Why maintain it as a society?
Cosbey: That way it would still be eligible for grants that are given to societies, but not municipalities—for example the $4000 grant we get each year to hire a life guard and so on.
Bennett: Has the transfer been completed?
Cosbey: Technically, the RSPS still hasn’t been transferred to the city. We held an AGM on a set of amendments the city suggested to pool society bylaws that would do the transition, and we sent those to Victoria. But Victoria sent it back with suggested amendments, so we have yet to resubmit the new bylaws. Technically we’re in limbo. But in fact, if not in name, it’s been transferred to the city already.
Bennett: Will title for the pool pass to the city?
Cosbey: No, title to the pool belongs to the society. The bank account and the title will remain part of the society.
Bennett: What will the new RSPS structure look like?
Cosbey: As before, the board will be appointed by the members. The members will be the CAO, the mayor, and one councillor.
Bennett: Did the city approach you [the RSPS] to discuss their plans to apply for a grant to help fund a four season pool?
Cosbey: No, there’s been no discussion.
Bennett: The CAO and mayor have said that an assessment of the pool infrastructure was necessary and claim to have hired Matthes Architecture and Stantec to do this assessment. But the architecture and engineering reports say the purpose was an “updated design” for a “year round facility.” Did you read these reports and what do you think?
Cosbey: Yes, I read them. It’s not an assessment of infrastructure. It’s an architect’s design and budget for a year-round pool, and an engineer’s report on what has to be done to make the year-round pool happen.
Bennett: Did the RSPS already have an assessment of the state of the pool?
Cosbey: When Jason was still at the city, he was doing assessments at that point, and I think he may have already done one. You should ask him.
Bennett: You were at the meeting on Dec. 19 when the city voted to proceed with the grant application for a four season pool. What did you think about how that went?
Cosbey: I have no axe to grind, not at all, but the whole thing floored me. I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was a dereliction of duty by the new members of council, though I understand they were still getting a feel for their role, and unacceptable behaviour by the mayor. His role is a facilitator of discussion, not a driver of an agenda.