No action from city on Hart pool petition

City council received a 1,660-signature petition on Monday calling for the new pool being constructed to replace the Four Seasons Leisure Pool to be built in the Hart instead of downtown.

City council received the petition, but took no action on it.

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Copies of the petition, created by Hart resident Svend Serup with help from his son Paul Serup, were posted in 20 Hart business locations.

"Though the petition beings 'We residents of the Hart Highlands area...' some other residents did sign," Serup wrote a letter to city council accompanying the copies of the petition. "It has not been checked name by name, but we believe that the vast majority of those signing live (in) the Hart Highlands area."

In a referendum on Oct. 28, 2017, voters authorized the city to borrow $35 million to replace the aging downtown pool. Residents voted 62.48 per cent in favour (4,923 votes in favour and 2,956 against) of borrowing the money.

The petition calls for $10 million to be spent to upgrade the current Four Seasons pool, and $25 million be used to build a new pool in the Hart.

"We note that Vanderhoof is building a pool for $12 million. Its building size will be more than 16,000 (square) feet and contain a six lane, 25 (metre) pool and a 1500 sq. foot leisure pool with a lazy river and a large hot tub," Serup wrote in an email to The Citizen on Feb. 14. "Presently there is a need for recreational facilities in the Hart area of Prince George, it is difficult for often overworked parents (in) the Hart to get a child involved in a competitive swimming club with the only pools in the bowl area of the city."

In the October referendum, only 918 Hart residents voted - including 410 against the replacement of the pool -while 1,660 have effectively voted in favour of a pool in the Hart, Serup wrote.

"We expect city council to accept the petition as a very strong mandate to modify plans they many have had, be willing to be moved by the will of the people to have a pool (in) the Hart," Serup wrote.

Coun. Garth Frizzell said the 86-page petition is "pretty significant."

"We don't see petitions this large very often," Frizzell said. "There is clearly an appetite in the Hart for some recognition and some facilities."

While the signal to city council is clear, he said, the timing is poor. The city is already proceeding with the plans for a new pool downtown, based on the mandate from the referendum, he said. At this point, changing course would be "difficult, if not impossible," he said.

Given the strong interest, Coun. Albert Koehler it may be worth considering a pool in the Hart in the future.

"(But) wish lists can be very long, and only so much can be done," Koehler said.

Coun. Murry Krause said the Hart residents are sending a strong message to council about the need for facilities in their region.

"I want to congratulate all those who signed for their activism," Krause said. "You've been heard."

"(But) this is about meeting needs, and a more central pool will meet the needs of more people."

Prince George is a large city for its population size, Coun. Jillian Merrick said, and there are several neighbourhoods like the Hart which consider themselves outside the city core.

The Hart has many amenities those neighbourhoods don't, including a library branch and Corporal Darren Fitzpatrick Bravery Park with a new off-leash dog park and skate park, Merrick said.

"(But) I understand the sentiment of the folks that signed this," she said.

Mayor Lyn Hall said he had a chance to speak with Serup and hear his concerns about the issue.

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