At the Council meeting tonight, Administrator Dick Perrson stated that the amateur swim clubs would not be required to pay new lane hire fees for the rest of this financial year, following a stalemate in negotiations between the Council and the Clubs.
It was stressed however that the matter would need to be re-addressed for the 2017-2018 financial year.
With a number of the Clubs under threat of folding, this is a welcomed, although temporary reprieve for the Clubs. Let's hope a satisfactory outcome can be reached in the new year.
Is it fair that local not-for-profit swimming clubs, which have been operating in Manly for 80 and 100 years, should be expected to pay excessive lane hire fees in addition to entry fees?
That's the debate that has caused a total stalemate between the new Northern Beaches Council and the three amateur swim clubs which use the Manly Swim Centre.
The 22 week swimming season was scheduled to start early in October, but Manly Swim Club, Manly Women's Swimming Club and the Manly Diggers Club have not been able to use their traditional home at the Manly Swim Centre Boy Charlton Pool.
The deadlock is over just how much is a fair fee for non-profit clubs to pay. The Council wants $53.00 per lane per hour, in addition to entry fees which have been estimated to tally around $80,000 annually.
The Clubs say they just can't afford it and they will probably close. They are concerned that they are been hit with huge fees because the $27.3 million indoor facility, which they don't even use, was so over budget.
In contrast, a survey of other amateur clubs using council pools elsewhere in Sydney, pay no lane hire or a nominal fee plus entry.
"This is a clear case of where the amalgamation of the three councils has not served Manly. While the former Manly Council strongly supported the amateur swimming clubs, it seems the new council is focused purely on service fees. It's Council's role to provide facilities for the community - not to price local groups out of existence", said former Councillor Candy Bingham.
It is understood that local member Mike Baird has met with the Clubs and the Council but that no solution has been found.
Meanwhile, the swimming season is well underway and the Clubs have no where to swim.
It's a disgrace.
The new Andrew Boy Charlton Indoor Swim Centre opens at the end of the month and yet Councillors still have not been provided with a business plan, despite repeated requests from the Independent Councillors.
At a recent Planning & Strategy meeting, consistent questions by Councillor Candy Bingham querying the costs of the new centre, and projected revenue, were met with a tirade by the Mayor Jean Hay that "such consistent negative comments are a disgrace". But the answers still have not been provided nor a business plan provided.
"One has to wonder how the staff have come to the conclusion that a small gym operating in the centre, will attract hundreds of memberships at $2,776.40 pa with the cost of classes then to be at an extra fee. Clearly comparisons with other local gyms (of which there are about 15 at last count) has not been undertaken otherwise the fee proposed would be halved", Clr Bingham said.
Apparently the Council will run all programs at the Swim Centre with the cost of lane hire expected to be prohibitive to existing community groups and established squads. Participants are also required to pay an entry fee. Warren Riley, who has been swimming at the Boy Charlton Pool since it opened is dismayed. He and fellow
"While I have been vocal about whether the community really needed a new indoor swim centre of this size, nonetheless, now that we have it, it is important that it is accessible to the whole community. After all, we now have six pools, a steam room, sauna, spa and gym as well as a creche. Surely it makes sense to provide these facilities at a reasonable price to ensure that the swim centre remains profitable and popular", Clr Bingham concluded.
Will you use the new swim centre?
For the past 21 years Narelle Simpson has trained swimmers at Manly’s Boy Charlton Swim Centre.
The popular swim coach has also trained elite swimmers in Australia’s Olympic, Paralympic and World championship teams. She has spent years coaching Northern Beaches lifesavers, triathletes, water polo champions and marathon swimmers, including James Pittar the first blind swimmer to cross the English Channel.
But none of that made any difference to Manly Council.
The council did not renew Ms Simpson's contract or offer her any ongoing role in the new-look swim centre, which will open its doors in July after a massive $25 M indoor facility addition. Council plans to run the Learn to Swim programs in the new facility.
The situation is so bad that dozens of Ms Simpson’s ’squaddies’ came to Manly Council's 4th April meeting to express their frustration and rage. They were there thanks to a motion by Cllr Cathy Griffin that the Council formally recognise Ms Simpson’s huge contribution to the community over the past two decades.
Even that had been bungled with the council sending a letter of thanks along with a notice telling Ms Simpson her contract would not be renewed.
“Narelle is a huge asset to this area,” swim squad member and lawyer Mark Houston told councillors.
“Her achievements as a swim coach are outstanding. If she goes a whole bunch of people will have nowhere to go to train - triathletes, open water and pool swimmers. It’s Narelle that makes the difference - they follow her. We don’t even know if she can hire lane space after the new centre opens on the first of July.”
Rows of fit-looking, young swimmers agreed, with many vowing to boycott the new swim centre unless their coach was treated with respect.
Good for Manly Councillor Candy Bingham said the Council’s plan to manage the new swim centre itself has created a nightmare for contractors.
“It’s totally unacceptable that, with less than three months to go, existing contractors don’t know if they can continue to hire lanes” she said. "No one - not even the councillors - have seen any business plans on how the new centre will operate."
And while the business plan, and the new centre manager remain elusive, there is some comfort at least for Ms Simpson and her swimmers.
A motion by Cllr Hugh Burns that all existing squads and their coaches be guaranteed at least 12 months’ access to swim lanes after July 1st, was passed.
Ms Simpson will also receive a more fitting letter of commendation and thanks.
“Operational plans for the new centre still remain a mystery with councillors being kept in the dark, despite repeated requests for information ,” Cllr Bingham said. "it's just not acceptable".
Although budgeted at $15.5m, the cost of the new Indoor Swim Centre at the Manly Boy Charlton Swim Centre has reached in excess of $19m, with construction and architectural tenders now confirmed. This represents a cost blow-out of over 20%.
Additionally there is the $1.5m for LM Graham Amenities and $1.3m for the CoGen + Energy Centre for the pools, which have been budgeted for separately.
With the loss of on-site parking, users of the Swim Centr e and Reserve say that parking on Kenneth Road has become a life-threatening activity as Manly Council continues to ignore expert advice and community pleas to fix the problem.
The council created the problem in April by changing parking conditions on Kenneth Rd, next door to the swim centre. It replaced parallel parking on both sides of the road with angle parking on one side. But because parallel parking was retained on the other side, cars exiting angle parking spots have to back out over the centre line creating a hazard for traffic travelling in both directions. Even worse, the angle parking was "nose to kerb", so car drivers were forced to back out blind into fast moving traffic. The changes were introduced as part of the council's controversial $19 M redevelopment of the swim centre, which creates a need for more parking spaces at the same time as taking existing spaces away. They also affect sports groups and dog walkers using LM Graham Reserve next door.
The parking changes have always been opposed by Manly's four independent councillors, including Good For Manly Cr Candy Bingham, on the grounds that they are inappropriate and dangerous for a busy thoroughfare such as Kenneth Rd. They have been joined by angry residents, who have used the Manly Daily to describe the changes as "ridiculous" and "a nightmare".
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has raised concerns with the council several times and, in October, sent a formal letter saying Kenneth Rd did not meet national parking safety standards. RMS senior officer John Begley said parking should only be on one side of Kenneth Rd, effectively making the road wider and reversing safer. The parking should also be changed to 90-degree angle parking, from the existing 30-degree parking arrangement.
Council states it is still in negotiation with the RMS but in the meantime has kept parking on both sides of the street, and maintained its 30-degree parking format. Its only concession has been to change the direction of angle parking, so cars will now park rear to the kerb.
Independent councillor Barbara Aird said that the council’s refusal to fix the parking problem was “unbelievable”. She has been leading the campaign to improve the situation, which she described as “an accident waiting to happen”.
What do you think? Do you use Kenneth Road?
Now that the tender for the construction of the new indoor Swim Centre at the Manly Boy Charlton Pool has been awarded, a number of Councillors are raising concerns about the price tag for the facility, which is already 22% over budget.
According to Clr Candy Bingham, the budgeted allowance for the indoor facility is $15.5m (Long Term Financial Plan 2013/14). However the cost, including architect fees, is now closer to $19m.
In her Mayoral Column on 25/11/14 in the Manly Daily, Clr Jean Hay assured Manly ratepayers "there is no cost blow-outs ... the approved tender has three separate components: the new indoor swim centre, the improved amenities for the LM Graham Reserve and the new 'co-generation energy plant' " however, this statement is misleading as the items quoted were tendered separately, and listed separately, in the Long Term Financial Plan. The additional items account for another $2.8m, on top of the $19m for the indoor swim centre.
It all started when Clr Barbara Aird broke the story to the Manly Daily prior to the October Council meeting on 13th. This was met with a furious attack by the Mayor claiming Councillor Aird had breached the Code of Conduct by revealing 'confidential information' as the tenderer had not been finalised. In publicity and offensively attacking Clr Aird the Mayor breached the Code herself, but seemed completely oblivious to the fact as she demanded that all councillors attend a refresher workshop on the Code of Conduct.
It has subsequently been revealed that Clr Aird did not break the Code, supported by the fact that the winning tenderer publicity notified neighbours days later saying they were the new contractor for the facility; and Regulation 269 of the Local Government Act that clearly states that the contract price was a matter of public knowledge once the winning tenderer had been selected.
There is no argument that Manly will benefit from this new indoor facility and that Council, in being successful in gaining a 10 year fixed interest loan at a subsidised rate, has obtained a good deal. What concerns ratepayers, and many Councillors, is the continued lack of transparency and secrecy around all major projects undertaken by this Council.
Given the project is already 22% over budget, isn't now the time to reassess the facilities being offered to see where reasonable cost cutting can be made?
What do you think?
Community representation wasn't enough to sway the Manly Independent Assessment Panel which approved Manly Council's development application to replace the popular 25 metre outdoor swimming pool with a purpose- built polo pool at the Boy Chartlon Swim Centre.
Addressing the Panel, concerned residents and regular users of the pool cited the detrayal they felt by Manly Council's backflip after they had publicly reassured residents that the 25 metre pool would be retained as part of the $15million redevelopment of the Swim Centre.
Main issues raised were the lack of community consultation (the DA was lodged on December 23 when most people were on holidays); claims that the DA was not displayed at the Swim Centre until the date for submissions had close; the reduction in on-site parking with the new development; increased patronage; lack of public transport to the Centre and disbelief that the Council proposed to replaced a well-used community pool with a deep-water polo pool that would not be suitable for young children, swimming lessons or rehabilitation patients who currently use the 25 metre pool it will replace.
Water Polo has become a major sport on the Northern Beaches with some 300 members currently training in the evenings using the existing 50 metre pool at the swim centre.
Funding is yet to be found for the building of the polo pool.
A controversial decision to build a water polo pool at Manly swim centre will stand, despite concerns the decision process sidelined locals, pool users and councillors alike.
Councillor Candy Bingham used Manly Council's first meeting of the year to ask for the polo pool to be put on hold until the council has seen a full business case on how it will be funded and operated.
The polo pool, which will replace the existing 25m outdoor pool,
was not part of the redevelopment plan for the Centre until last October, when the council agreed to "explore the possibility" of building a water polo pool.
No further discussion took place, however a Development Application (DA) to build the water polo pool was lodged just before Christmas, with submissions to the DA closing before council resumed this week.
"You can't tell me that due process has been followed here," Cr Bingham said. "I'm not against the possibility of a water polo pool at the swim centre. I'm just appalled at the contempt with which the elected councillors are treated."
The councillors weren't the only ones left out of the loop.
Several Manly residents spoke at the Council meeting asking the council to keep the 25m outdoor pool as it is. Reasons include the huge popularity of the pool with small children, who are too big for the toddler pool but still need a pool where they can always touch the bottom. Nervous adult swimmers love it too, as well as mothers who can look after several children at once with the existing arrangement of the toddler and 25m pools right next to each other.
The polo pool decision also goes against a public promise made by Manly Council General Manager Henry Wong that the existing pool would not be touched. The commitment, made to the Manly Daily in July, followed community anger at initial plans to remove the "beloved" 25m pool.
However Liberal councillors, voting as a block, signed the 25m pool's death warrant.
"I'm really disappointed," Clr Bingham said. "I'm disappointed that my Liberal colleagues are prepared to accept such a sloppy decision making process. "Now we're going ahead with a $1.5 million piece of infrastructure, even though the council never made the decision to build it, and the locals don't want it."
Breaking News: Update The $15m upgrade of Manly 'Boy Charlton' Swim Centre has now been approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (18/12/13) who previously raised concerns about the traffic & parking plans for the Centre.
Some conditions have been applied to address the traffic and parking issues raised including the provision of a footpath on the northern side of the road. Many locals are still concerned that the road is too busy to accommodate the angle parking proposed. (See video demonstration above).
The traffic report indicated that an average of 1012 vehicles currently use Kenneth Road. Many of these are school buses and commercial vehicles, which, with the width of the road at 13m is simply not wide enough to provide safe 30 degree angle parking on the southern side and parallel parking on the northern side . We believe that the proposed provision of traffic calming and reduced speed limit to 50km will only agitate, not solve, the issue.
Objections from the Precincts to the Manly Oval Car Park & Boy Charlton Swimming Centre Developments has been meet with a hostile response from Manly Council.
Read the Precincts letter sent on 28 October and then the response from Council received on the 7 November and you be the judge:
Firstly, here is a copy of the statement prepared by the Joint Precincts Group:
"The majority of Precincts have major concerns about the financial viability of the Manly Oval Car Park & the ‘Boy Charlton’ Swimming Centre developments.
Manly Oval Car Park
Based on an informative document on the Manly Oval car park viability prepared by Peter Greentree, a local resident with an extensive background in financial analysis and project evaluation using information available on the existing car parks in Manly and the information provided by Council from the KPMG Report to residents, the Precincts believe that it is not feasible to continue with the Manly Oval car park development.
As a result of this report & other issues on this matter expressed by Precincts, residents (many qualified in accountancy, major project financing and/or engineering) and the Manly Chamber of Commerce, the Precincts are concerned that:
We request that Council defers the Manly Oval car Park development and reviews the options for additional parking in Manly.
We understand that there are a number of options that could be considered.
The Precincts would like to work with Council to develop these options.
Boy Charlton Swimming Centre
The Precincts do not understand why Council will not discuss this matter with them or take on board the suggestions/comments on this development. The Precincts have outlined a number of ideas that could be introduced to make this development more appealing, more viable & more ‘user friendly’.
However because of the short lead time on the DA for this project the Precincts have not had the opportunity to properly discuss their recommendations with Council.
This project is highly expensive and most Precincts have major concerns about Council’s projections that patronage will treble to service the cost. Precincts do not believe that the attendance figure is achievable which will result in the Council not being able to deliver enough income to service the loan.
We also have observed that in the Council’s Ten Year Financial Plan, ongoing investment in capital expenditure decreases significantly from recent years implying that Council will run down its asset base to fund Manly 2015 and Boy Charlton. This assumption is both unrealistic and unsustainable, delivering a substantially more positive outcome for Council’s projected financial position than will likely be the case.
The Precincts recommend that the procedure to upgrade the Swim Centre is slowed down to allow for further discussion on this development.
Precincts desire a meeting with Council to look at the total viability of the current project with a view of deciding on a less expensive & more appealing swim centre.
In summary, the Precincts believe that Council is ignoring prudent risk management principles by moving too quickly on these major developments without taking into account responses from Precincts & residents on the financial viability and on-going risks associated with such large capital outlays. We implore the Council to take on board our comments and to look more closely at each of these projects to determine what other options are available which would reduce the amount of money required for funding."
Concerns about the scale, cost and design of the proposal have been expressed by community groups, including Manly precincts (resdients' groups) and the Northern Beaches Breakers Water Polo Club, which trains at the pool.
Manly precints' joint meeting last month described the swim centre plan as "not addressing community needs". The meeting asked the council to consider other options "with a view to deciding on a less expensive and more appealing swim centre".
The Manly Access Committee, which considers the needs of people with disabilities, and the Breakers club, which missed out on a dedicated water polo pool, also want the plans reviewed.
Cr Bingham said the Swim Centre proposal had been rushed through with minimal time for consultation. She said the new building would not interact in any way with the adjacent reserve, there was an "unbelievable" lack of change room facilities and that the proposal for five swim pools was excessive.
Cr Bingham said she believed that the main driver for the rush was the council's eagerness to lock in a special state government loan. But the hurry was not necessary as State Treasurer and local MP Mike Baird had confirmed that access to the loan would be maintained even if the pool DA was delayed.
In 2012 Manly Council secured a state government-funded bank interest subsidy for its planned upgrade of the Andrew "Boy" Charlton Swim Centre. The Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme grant will save the council about $3.5 million in interest, as the state government will pay the first 4 per cent interest on a $15 million loan for 10 years.
UPDATE: More Talk - Less Action Needed ..
Concerns are mounting about the haste at which Manly Council is pushing through its DA for the building of a Leisure Centre on the site of the Boy Charlton Swim Centre in Balgowlah Road, Fairlight, with questions being asked about the bland design of the building, the lack of change room facilities, questions are to why the centre needs a gym when there are already 14 in Manly, and the lack of meaningful community consultation.
The Northern Beaches Breakers Water Polo Club (which has around 400 members) has now also submitted a solid business case for the area to include a polo pool which the current design doesn't.
So why the reason for the rush? According to Council's General Manager to gain access to the $15m subsidised loan obtained by Council as part of the NSW Infrastructure program, everything has to be approved by December.
But with a $16m price tag (including professional fees) does Manly run the risk of finishing up with a Centre that is not what the locals want or need?
Public exhibition of the $15m upgrade of Manly 'Boy Charlton' Swim Centre now closed.
(An impressive 120 submissions were received)
The plan includes the building of a new, all purpose aquatic centre which will include a 25 metre, 8 lane pool; seating for 150 spectators; a program pool, leisure pool & spa pool. In addition, the new centre includes a sauna and steam room, administration rooms, plants rooms, gymnasium and group fitness/multipurpose space and kiosk.
Following community consultation both the 50 metre and 25 metre outdoor pools will be retained, as will the original change rooms. There will also be change rooms in the indoor facility.
One of the features of the new development is the changing of the entry to the Centre from Balgowlah Road to Kenneth Road, with some 200 parking spaces provided on-site and as angle parking in Kenneth Road. The indoor centre has been designed with roofing to provide maximum natural light, and a sliding wall which can be opened when the weather is fine.
The exhibition period is until 9th October 2013 and plans can be viewed at the Library or Council Chambers. The Joint Regional Planning Panel is the consent authority for this $15m redevelopment.
Go to Council's website for more details
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.