PORT HAWKESBURY: The Town of Port Hawkesbury is hoping to form a committee of municipal funding partners for the Strait Area Pool.

During the regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council on June 1, Deputy Mayor Blaine MacQuarrie wanted to know if discussions started with the municipalities of Inverness and Richmond counties over their contributions to the pool.

CAO Terry Doyle said town staff is in the process of finalizing a letter to those municipalities for council to review.

For many years, Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said there has been a cost-sharing mechanism in place for the pool among the municipal units, but that changed this year.

“It really does function as a regional asset, and historically, has also received some support,” she noted. “However, the funding that was provided by our municipal partners, that are co-supporting that asset, some of those amounts have been reduced. We’ll be looking for a scenario that will allow for our pool to remain sustainable. And we want to maintain that asset as a pool that will benefit our region, and certainly the usership of that pool is coming from all of our surrounding municipalities, not just the Town of Port Hawkesbury. It’s quite important that we make sure that we support that asset in a way that reflects service delivery and the usage of the pool.”

Doyle explained that usage of the pool has traditionally broken down as 24 per cent from the town, 32 per cent from Richmond County and between 28-30 per cent from Inverness County, but the funding break-down has been one-third from each municipality.

“We’re really looking for municipal input into the future direction of the pool as well,” the CAO noted. “We’ve asked for funding in the past; we’ve made attempts to make it more of a regional facility. But we’re really trying to reach out and look at a new vision and a cooperative committee to move this forward.”

The mayor said the pool has been open “limited hours” over the past year, despite the pandemic, but has hosted swim teams from other municipalities that usually don’t use the Strait Area Pool for practices.

“We were able to operate reduced hours thanks to the cooperation of the (Strait Regional Centre for Education) when other community-use schools were cancelled,” Doyle noted. “We were able to push forward with that because there was a realization that this was really life-saving and very important to our community. I will say that the hours we were open were fully utilized. We had to cancel our last swimming lessons session, which was oversubscribed. We had to turn away people.”

The mayor added the town’s number one priority is to continue operating the pool, and she hopes all funding partners can figure out a way to keep it operating in a sustainable way.

“Certainly swimming is an essential skill,” she added. “We’re surrounded by water, we’re an island. I think having our children know how to swim is very important.”