Calgary

Inglewood residents band together to save pool, set to close due to city budget cuts

City council voted in July to slash $60 million from this year's budget in order to deal with soaring business tax rates outside the core, and inner-city facilities will be hit.

The inner-city facility is a victim of the recent decision to slash $60 million from the city's budget

Inglewood residents gathered at the community centre on Tuesday to talk about how to save the local pool. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Residents in Inglewood hope they can save the local pool, slated to shut down as part of the city's recent decision to slash $60 million from its budget. 

On Tuesday night, about 25 people met at the Inglewood community hall to talk ideas and share concerns. 

"You can't rebuild that. It's a capital investment that we paid for," said Bob Chartier, who lives near the pool. 

"We own it and you're going to take it away and we would never rebuild this. We would never, ever get the bucks to rebuild this again." 

A petition has been started to garner support for the Inglewood Aquatic Centre and the group that met on Tuesday is planning to host a pool party and other events to put pressure on the city. 

Heather Ross, another member of the group, said the pool is about more than bricks, mortar and chlorinated water, it's a rite of passage for community children. 

"The first time that they learn to walk somewhere on their own without a parent they usually walk from the Colonel Walker School over to the Inglewood pool," she said. 

"You're helping foster that walking community."

Budget cuts

City council voted in July to slash $60 million from this year's budget in order to deal with soaring business tax rates outside the core. 

Those taxes are climbing due in large part to the plummeting value of downtown skyscrapers, struggling with vacancy rates over 20 per cent. 

Loss of those tax dollars has to be made up by other businesses as part of the formula set by provincial legislation that binds the city's hands. 

The city is using the $60 million in savings, plus $70.9 million from its coffers to reduce the business tax increase to no more than 10 per cent. 

A little over a month after approving the cuts, and days after approving what exactly would be cut, council voted to help fund a new arena for the Calgary Flames, committing $275 million to build the new facility and more than $12 million to demolish the old Saddledome.

Beltine and Inglewood

"I was really disappointed when the city said they were going to close the pool; we didn't have any facts about why our pool got chosen for the budget cuts," said Naomi Withers, communications director with the Inglewood Community Association, at Tuesday's gathering. 

"So, it was really about trying to find some more information and searching for other options to keep it open."

In addition to the Inglewood pool, the city is also shutting down the Beltline Aquatic Centre. Both are slated to close at the end of 2019. 

"The age and condition of this facility no longer meet current service level expectations and changing citizen preferences have resulted in limited and declining participation," reads statements on both recreation centres' websites.

The same sites point people to facilities in Renfrew, Forest Lawn and Killarney as alternatives. 

The Beltline facility just underwent a major renovation in October 2018, with an updated gymnasium and change rooms. 

An online petition to save both inner-city facilities had almost 1,400 signatures on Wednesday morning.

Other areas affected by the budget cuts include transit, affordable housing and the fire department. 

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca.

With files from Tahirih Foroozan

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