Pool prepares for management change

Rainbow Road Aquatic Centre will be under new management starting in April. The Capital Regional District will take on operational responsibilities for the facility they own as the current service contract with Recreation Excellence comes to an end on March 31.

The change was publicly announced by the CRD last August.

Salt Spring Islanders can expect to see many staff and lifeguards they already know when the pool re-opens after an April 1-20 shutdown.

“People will see a lot of familiar faces,” said Dan Ovington, Parks and Recreation manager for Salt Spring Island. “We’ve had a lot of interest from current lifeguards and swim instructors.”

Among those who will be returning to the pool is Aquafit instructor Brenda Akerman. PARC also brought on a new aquatic manager Zach Lundrie, who will be replacing Jim Raddysh after his retirement.

Since the staffing of the facility will be managed under a different organization, all employees have had to re-apply for their positions.

The Rainbow Road pool has always been owned by the CRD, however, the facility and staffing was run by the outside contractor.

“We have to go through a fair hiring process,” said Ovington. “We’ve been working really hard since September to run a lot of training courses. We actually trained up eight swim instructors in the fall. We’re hoping that all of those new swim instructors will apply.”

The certification process to be a lifeguard and swim instructor is a lengthy one that can cost upwards of $300 per course. PARC offered the courses starting in September to allow those interested ample time to complete them. The sessions were also offered at a discount to current residents of Salt Spring.

“The goal was to train up as many people from the island as we could, because we knew that if we were expanding the hours we wanted to make sure we had the staff to do that,” he said.

The CRD decided to not renew the contract with Recreation Excellence for financial reasons. By running the facility themselves, PARC no longer pays a service fee to the contractor and is able to increase the hours that people can enjoy the pool. The facility will now be open seven days a week and more programs will be offered. The Rainbow Road building will also become the place where people can sign up for other PARC programs.

“Unlike the private contractor, we’re not profit driven, we’re service driven,” Ovington said. “We were able to take the revenue that we were essentially paying somebody to manage the facility and put it back into the facility in order to expand those hours.”

In a press release about the decision issued last summer, the CRD stated that outsourcing management of the pool was viewed as the less expensive option for the community when the pool opened in 2008, but that the fee-for-service model “no longer offers the best value.”

When the aquatic centre re-opens on Saturday, April 21, the public can enjoy free swimming that day as well as an open house that will let people learn more about the change and meet the staff.

Ovington said the CRD and PARC would like to thank Recreation Excellence for its work in the past 10 years at the pool.

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