As the official opening date of the Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre (MAAC) looms patrons are divided over the quality and operation of the new facility.
The MAAC is due to be opened on September 13 and while many are impressed with what is sure to be a great facility for the town once completed, others are concerned about the delays and construction issues which have plagued the project.
Both the pool manager, Julie Rushby, and another source close to the project have told the Champion the decision not to close the pool complex while the upgrades were taking place was not the best decision for the construction.
Moree Plains Shire Council strongly opposed shutting the site down during construction, so much so that it was written into the tender documents.
“The juggling of a construction site and facility in operation has cost us time and placed constraints on the project,” Ms Rushby said.
The source close to the project said not shutting down the facility had lead to “huge difficulties” and “a big cost factor”.
“For the people of Moree it was the best decision... but not for the construction process,” the source said.
After numerous delays, the council said the MAAC was still on track to open on the revised date of September 13.
The source said the construction company, Swimplex, expected to have their part of the project completed within two weeks’ time.
However, despite the nearing official opening, there is still a large list of things which need to be finalised. This includes seating, new change room facilities, and tenancy for some of the on-site facilities.
Ms Rushby thought council would still be carrying out finishing touches and installing fit outs after September 13.
The business plan entailing how the facility will be managed, who will manage it and when the transition to new management will occur has yet to be finalised.
The gym and wellness centre may not be operational by the official opening as the council has yet to secure companies to run that portion of the facility.
Director of corporate services, Ross Earl, said the council asked for expressions of interest for the tender of each facility until August last year and did not receive any applications.
Mr Earl said whether the gym and wellness centre would be open by September 13 was dependant on whether the tenancy agreement had been finalised, and whether the tenants had the two facilities operating.
The Moree Champion has received numerous comments about the MAAC.
One of the main concerns has been the grime and dead skin which has formed a film on top of the water in the heated pools.
When the Champion visited the pool the film was apparent.
Two residents commented that it had formed due to the lack of drainage at the sides of the pools.
Residents also said the outdoor shower allowed water to run into the pool rather than down the drain. It was also pointed out that the Olympic pool was not level and had drainage issues.
A visitor told the Champion the cost of entry was too expensive, particularly for those who wanted to use the pool regularly.
She said a family of four had visited earlier in the day and wanted to swim in the pool, leave for lunch, and then return to swim again.
They were charged $25 to enter the first time, but would have been charged $35 to make the two trips.
The current cost of the water slide ($3 for five slides) was also deemed as being too expensive.
Mr Earl said this was to cover the cost of the slide supervisors, and the price would be reviewed. He also said it was “favourable” when compared to similar slides elsewhere.
Two residents pointed out there were no windbreaks at the sides of the pool.
However, Ms Rushby said this would be addressed by a new series of change rooms to be built along the left-hand side.
She said many of the complaints received by the council were about things which would be addressed before the official opening.
Despite these complaints, the MAAC has also been touted as a state-of-the-art facility.
The FINA Standard Olympic pool means it is of Commonwealth Games quality meaning Moree could host larger competitions.
Ms Rushby said the MAAC had been hugely successful during the winter months, particularly during the school holiday period. Staff recorded 700 slides down the water slide last Sunday alone.
One former resident who was visiting the pool this week said this was a “world-class” facility.
The complex will also provide employment opportunities with about 20 to 40 people to work at the complex.
“Early on in the (construction) we had more negative feedback, but as it has gone on we’ve received more positive comments,” Ms Rushby said.
The pool will be closed from July 30 to August 6 as it is every year, which will also provide an opportunity for staff training