The Golden Square Pool avoided closure once again on Wednesday evening as Bendigo councillors unanimously voted to keep the pool open for two more years.
Raucous cheers from a packed public gallery in the council chambers greeted the decision, and emotional scenes continued outside the town hall after councillors discarded a recommendation to close the pool.
An alternative motion to revisit the pool’s future in two years and to continue the existing arrangement with council – whereby the community funds any infrastructure upgrades needed – was put forward by deputy mayor Jennifer Alden.
“It (pool) is the beating heart of the suburb, let’s make it the healthy heart of Golden Square,” Cr Alden said.
Golden Square Pool president Bernadette Wright said she was overwhelmed with the vote.
“We will probably need to do some major (infrastructure) works which will require some fundraising,” she said.
“This decision shows that we (community) matter, our voices matter.”
Rendering work is required on the pool, while the venue needs a disabled toilet and a new chemical shed, Ms Wright said.
“We know we’re an old facility but we’ll keep chugging away,” she said.
“It is safe. I wouldn’t be supporting it if it wasn’t.”
The pool avoided closure in 2013 when the previous council agreed to let the community run the pool.
“To close this pool now doesn’t make sense to me,” councillor Julie Hoskin said.
Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said she had heard from both sides of the argument.
“There is concern from residents who don’t use our facilities such as pools and they worry about the cost going into the future,” she said.
Cr Matt Emond said delaying a decision for two years will allow the council to work with the facts, those being whether patronage numbers at the pool increase or decrease when the Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre opens.
On cost, Cr Andrea Metcalf said she needed to consider whether the council could afford to run 12 pools, comparing Bendigo to Ballarat, which has four outdoor pools and one indoor.
“There’s no doubt it is a highly emotive issue in the community. Undoubtedly a common theme is how much the community love using the pool given its family-friendly nature,” she said.
Cr Jennifer Alden said: “The community reaction to the closure of the Golden Square Pool is the most significant issue I've encountered as a councillor.”