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Public speaks out on Outlook swimming pool closure

Users of the pool speak their minds on the facility's closure for the 2024 season.

OUTLOOK - Users of the Van Raay and Community Swimming Pool in Outlook and the public in general were shocked to learn that the aquatic facility, which opened in 2019, will not operate in 2024 due to major repairs and replacements that are needed following an incident in January that saw the furnace quit working in the mechanical room, which resulted in a number of pipes expanding and bursting and leading to water not only flooding the pool, but flowing in all manner of directions at a high rate.

It's estimated that the flooding had gone unseen for as much as one full day before someone took notice and it was stopped. In that timeframe, the rushing water not only filled the pool itself, but it entered the crawl spaces under and around the structure. Staff had checked the furnace during a cold weather snap at the time and it was found to be working normally.

In last week's issue and on, town administrator Kevin Trew and Outlook mayor Maureen Weiterman detailed the incident that led to the decision to close the pool for this coming season, providing key facts and figures, as well as their own viewpoints on what makes this situation a sad one for Outlook and area, notably the people who expected to use the pool this summer.

This reporter asked members of the public for their own reactions and viewpoints surrounding the pool closure, with the intention being to capture the very raw and very real emotions that people are experiencing right now as a popular community attraction sits on the proverbial shelf for the year. When something in the community goes wrong and affects many people, it's not only important to get the facts and perspectives from the key people involved, but it can sometimes be equally important to show the point of view of everyday people.

Kids' faces are nothing but smiles as they come down one of the water slides. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

It's only fair that the public have a say in the decisions that affect their quality of life, especially due to the fact that the Van Raay and Community Swimming Pool was largely paid for by that public.

The following is what people are saying and feeling:

"Our family is disappointed and sad. We don't blame the town, and are sure that the decision to close for 2024 was not lightly arrived at. We will make do for this year, likely visiting Kenaston and the lake a few times, and certainly put up a little kiddy pool of some sort in our yard for the grandkids. We will look forward to the 2025 grand reopening! Just as a note, we have been people who used the pool several times a week throughout the open season each year ever since it opened. We love the new pool!" - Steve Forbes, Outlook

"Maybe the town could run a bus shuttle to the lake." - Michelle Hooey, Moose Jaw

"Why can't they replace the pipe?" - Murray Helmer, Outlook

"Do we know what and how it happened? Is there anything that can be learned from this for the future?" - Katy Long, Outlook

"The 'furnace malfunction' is one thing, but why wasn't the water shut off? This is a huge hit to the town, and the regional park I'm afraid will feel the repercussions." - Patricia Lucki, Outlook

"Regardless of what happened, how it happened, it happened.

The amount of fundraising, and work that went into having a pool, it must be devastating not only to the town of Outlook but also all the surrounding towns that access the pool. Employees out of a job, no swimming lessons and in our case visits to the pool when grandkids come.

I broke the news to them today that when they come this summer the pool will be closed, they were also disappointed.

Thank goodness for insurance.

Good luck Outlook." - Cheryl Tweten, Lucky Lake

Tony Peter, Betty Peter, Ashley Austin, Julie de Moissac, and Teresa Weldon were part of the fundraising committee that helped make the new Outlook pool a reality. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

"I was in a major car accident on Highway 219 in 2021, whole being 36 weeks pregnant (baby is fine). That's where my back, shoulder, neck and hip pain come from, but I also went through chemotherapy in the fall of 2022, and had a full mastectomy in January 2023, so the pool exercises help tremendously.

My depression and anxiety has been so bad for the past year. I'm on my 4th different antidepressant and I've tried all different doses. Nothing is helping me. The only thing that kept me barely making it last summer was the swimming pool, here in Outlook. It's my favorite thing to do with the kids or by myself. I've always loved swimming. Plus it's really good for my back pain, and I can exercise it and my shoulder better and with way more ease and way less pain, in the water. I was actually told to go to the pool and swim and stretch, and try to do certain exercises in the pool, for 2 years in a row.

I just read that due to a burst pipe, the Town of Outlook has decided to not run at all this season.

I'm literally in tears. I save all winter to buy the family season pass, just so we can go every day and I don't have to worry about having enough money for any of us to swim that day, we can just go. I do it also because it's the only thing we do all summer. We don't go camping, I can't afford it, plus I can't afford pet sitters. We don't go to the lake, I can't afford the gas or the day passes or the summer park pass. And it's too much for me mentally and physically to take all the kids to the lake for the day, and if one is acting up and ruining everyone else's day, I have to pack everyone up and leave. Waste of gas and park fee money.

We literally don't do anything else. I can't afford to do anything. The kids go to the park and the spray park, they go play soccer, basketball, basketball, they go bikeriding, hang out with each other...kid stuff. I literally do nothing. The pool was the only thing that got me out of the house most days. 

I am really really bothered by this. It is my only form of actual exercise. It's the only thing we do all together, or even just me and Jared or Sandra and I,  whoever, it's nice to hang out one on one. Lots of times it's the only thing to get Sandra out of the house because she's either glued to a device or she's drawing all week or coloring or playing mama tiger. Not saying those are bad things, I'm just saying I can't bribe her to leave the house some days, but swimming, she loves.

I don't know what we are going to do this summer now. My kids are ages 15, 13, 10 and 8. My 10-year old is autistic and my 15-year old was terrified of the water until 2 years ago, and just last year let go of the wall and actually started swimming." - Kirby Kearnan, Outlook

"When I heard what happened with the pipes bursting and how there was a furnace malfunction, one question came to there not a maintenance person who keeps an eye on such things? And if there is, how did it not get checked on long enough for something like this to occur? And if there isn’t somebody who checks on things like the furnace to a rather expensive out door pool such as ours, then I think it would be in the interest of whomever would be in charge of the pool to hire such a person." - Calvin Swan, Outlook

"I have a question on the man gallons of water was lost? They read the meters at the town office and why is there not an alarm system if something is using excess water on those meters? But the big question is why was the water not turned off? Rick Pederson knows the swimming pool like the back of his hand because he'd overseen the project. Can he give any answers to why or human error? I went on the Outlook swimming pool Facebook page. And all the kids who were so excited to hand a check to Teresa and others...the garage sale that went on forever. The auction fundraiser. Brought back so much positive." - Myrna Cragg, Outlook

"As someone who was deeply involved in getting the pool constructed and the husband of Betty, who loved to swim in that pool, and the grandfather of two young people who were scheduled to come out for lessons in July, I must say I am disappointed. However, 'things' happen, no matter the reason, and we must carry on, making the best of the time we have together. The pool isn’t gone; it will be repaired and we will be able to enjoy the water again. In the meantime, be patient, be kind and be supportive." - Tony Peter, Outlook

"When growing up I was always taught actions have consequences: both good and bad, cause and effect. When building a roughly $2.5 million (fully donated) swimming pool would it not be thought that when it's not in use (60% of the year) that lines would be blown out and a shut off valve ($20) be installed to protect the infrastructure throughout the months when it is not in use? I irrigate outside of Outlook and at the end of every farming season, we go and blow out each water line going from the turn out straight to the pivot point. If we decide not to do this or forget, the underground line freezes and once it warms back up, it cracks and we have a very very big problem (cause and effect). I am just wondering who takes responsibility in the town for their stewardship of a pool that was 100% funded by donations? Could this have been prevented? How much is the insurance premium to cover the loss? Why will it be shut down for the entire summer? What steps will be taken for this not to happen again? Mistakes happen, fool me once as the saying goes. But are the tax payers of this town being fooled?" - Kyle Primrose, east of Outlook

A long lineup of swimmers wait their turn to get through the doors. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

"Our family purchased a pool pass and our kids were able to spend time at the pool with qualified life guards looking out for them. I feel the loss of the qualified staff that care for our community kids is a loss in itself.

I attended the noon hour aqua size classes and know that I will greatly miss the recreation and fellowship. The instructors had an impact on all those attending. 
Our girls were saddened about the news of the pool closing this summer as it had become one of the main highlights of their summer. 

How can the Recreation department and town adjust to the loss their members are experiencing? Can they adjust and provide alternatives that still provide the needs even if it isn’t in the pool? Supervised recreational activities for kids? Just some food for thought. Wondering if the town has considered providing something different as an alternative for the summer." - Kristy Johnson, Outlook

"Rather than asking for peoples feelings on the matter, perhaps we can offer up help in some way. Brainstorm opportunities in town to keep kids busy in other ways this summer? More opportunities for local day camps? Perhaps fundraising opportunities to help cover some of the deductible cost?

As much as the pool is an integral part of our community, it isn’t everything. Our people is what make this town great, and together we will get over this hurdle. There has been so much finger pointing and rude behaviour that my heart aches for those directly involved. At the end of the day it is a pool. We have neighbouring communities that have been through a lot worse lately." - Sheena, Outlook (last name removed as requested)

"I am curious A - who was in charge of that part of winterizing. B - why are we relying on heaters that can shut down at any given moment and who was checking them. C - who is going to be held accountable for this 'job action' and who is paying for this?" - Travis Anholt, Outlook

"I would just say it’s extremely disappointing that a decision was made to winterize the pool the 'cheap' way instead of the correct way.

Being a former town employee (almost 10 years ago now), maintenance was always one step behind when it came to recreation as the rec department never makes money, but it was always simple fixes that would end up costing way more in the long run because the town just simply never looked at the maintenance nor had a proper maintenance schedule. I could tell you ten years ago all the ends in the trenches of the lines that run under the ice needed to be replaced as one of them is going to blow sooner rather than later as calcium chloride (the brine) is pretty hard on the equipment. It was brought forward to council members about the replacement needing to be done before I left. I guarantee it has not been done and is a disaster waiting to happen when one cracks.

Just things such as that...more of a 'It’s not a problem now, so fix later' attitude.

I was looking forward to getting a family pass this year so the little guy and I could go swimming often while on maternity leave but because of this, we will have to try to travel I guess, which is hard enough to do while on mat leave with the price of everything." - Ariella Annala, Outlook

"I feel that they do not have adequate educated staff for the operation of the pool and the town prefers to hire out students to save money. Therefore, these young kids have a huge responsibility and seemingly little supervision from a supervisor who is out of high school. When I am there with my kids all I see are Grade 10/11/12 kids.

They also clearly don't have proper protocols that are being followed and for something like winterizing, it should be double checked by a senior town worker.

There is no reason that a brand new pool be shut down like this after 4 years.

I hate to see what these repairs will cost our town (citizens) not to mention the lost revenue and asset to our community. Completely avoidable situation in my opinion." - Steffanie McAdam, Outlook