Trust still working on pool fix

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PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES
Two major problems still need to be solved before the Physio Pool can reopen.

The pool, in Hanover St, has been closed since May after the heat exchanger failed and needed to be replaced.

Since then, the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) has allocated extra funding to repair the broken equipment and the Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust has asked the board to waive a major portion of what the trust pays towards its operating costs when the pool reopens.

The trust pays the board $142,000 annually in operating costs, and is seeking a waiver of $100,000 of that for a year if and when the pool reopens.

‘‘We’re still in discussions with the SDHB about two things,’’ trust secretary-treasurer Neville Martin said.

‘‘One is the amount of money required to fix certain equipment.’’

The other was the waiver the trust asked the board to agree to.

If the board agreed, it would allow the trust to operate viably and fundraise for large items, which would reduce operating costs, Mr Martin said.

The items included a pool cover, an improved water treatment system and a heat recovery system.

‘‘We’re really still talking those matters through with the SDHB,’’ Mr Martin said.

‘‘It’s unfortunate that it’s taken a while for those discussions to reach any conclusion and until then the pool will remain closed.’’

While trustees expected it to take weeks, even months, for the pool to reopen, it had been closed for longer than they had anticipated.

However, they respected that things did not happen overnight, Mr Martin said.

‘‘We realised that the SDHB has probably other priorities at the moment, dealing with Covid in terms of funding its resources and requirements,’’ Mr Martin said.

While the trust waited for the pool to reopen, staff had to be made redundant in August.

‘‘We persevered for three months while we were in discussions with the SDHB, hoping for a positive outcome.

‘‘After three months we couldn’t afford to continue to pay the wages that we were paying the lifeguards and unfortunately had to make them redundant.’’

If the pool was to reopen, staff would be contacted and offered to be re-employed.

He understood many people were missing the pool and disappointed by its closure, Mr Martin said.

‘‘I think there are a lot of people in the community who are suffering at the moment and the trustees are mindful of that, but we are stuck until we get those two issues [fixed].’’

The problems were relatively complex and patience was required, he said.

‘‘We’re doing our best.’’

An SDHB spokeswoman said the board recently met the trust and it was agreed a full assessment of the condition of the plant and pool needed to be completed as more issues with the plant had arisen.

The board has stopped charging the trust for rent or operating costs while the pool is closed.

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