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Dispute leaves pool dry

Posted : 22 August 2013
THE Newton Park swimming pool is once again out of action and is currently standing empty due to a dispute over whether the contractors or the municipality are responsible for the cost of the repairs.

The pool was closed and “tenants” were told that the pool would not be in use for about a month. More than six weeks later, the repairs have not yet started. According to DA PR councillor for sports, arts, recreation and culture Andrew Whitfield, there are no funds available to carry out the repairs until the next financial year’s budget in 2015/16. The cost of the repairs according to the municipality is about R4-million, however, according to the contractors and the tile company, the cost would be a mere 20% of the R4-million or about R800000.

“The municipality has assigned zero capital budget to the maintenance and upgrade of pools until 2015/16 when R3-million will be made available. I have been informed that every effort is being made to find funds to sort out the problem. I have requested my colleague in Bhisho to engage [sports, arts, recreation and culture] MEC Xoliswa Tom for assistance,” he said. This means no budget for any of the 26 pools within the metro.

After the incident at the South African Swimming Championships in April it was decided that the pool would be closed for maintenance and repairs to the pump and filtration systems during July. Prior to the closure it was discovered that some tiles had lifted and this was to be incorporated into the July maintenance period.

According to Whitfield, the contractor has denied liability for the defects and this has led to the delay in the repairs to the pool.

He said it is unlikely that the pool will be ready before December. He believes this is a devastating admission if you consider the lost opportunities, revenue and jobs that our swimming industry could create.

One of South Africa’s biggest national swimming competitions has had to be cancelled for the first time in 42 years. The Aquabear Swimming Gala attracts more then 500 young swimmers from across South Africa. This follows the disruption of the SA National Aquatic Championships just three months ago, when a filtration pipe burst in the same pool, turning the water murky.

Aquabear vice-president and treasurer Chris Maclelland said the cancellation of the event is a “disaster for the club, and also has a knock-on effect for B&Bs”.

“It’s a tragic loss for swimming,” he said.

According to a letter from Jonathan Rumbelow of Triple S High Performance Coaching to the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan: “The Newton Park Swimming Pool must be by far the greatest disaster in the history of swimming in this city.

” Swimming, synchronised swimming, triathlon and water polo are but four Eastern Province sports that have been directly affected by the total lack of planning, maintenance and management [of the municipality, not of those employed at the facility].

Whitfield said this will more than likely have an impact on athletes training for Iron Man and other national athletic events. “How are the organisers supposed to put their trust in a municipality that can’t get this problem sorted out, which might mean athletes won’t have a place to practice”, he asked.

“While Nelson Mandela Bay is positioning itself as the water sports capital of South Africa we are failing to deliver this image to the public. The Splash Festival fiasco, the problems during the SA Swimming Championships and now the cancellation of the Aqua Bears Gala along with a number of other important fixtures paints a very different picture to the one we [Nelson Mandela Bay] are trying to create. We must become the water sports capital of the country but we are a long way from claiming this title.

“We have all the potential in the world to create a highly profitable economy out of water sports but sadly we are instead destroying the opportunities and the livelihoods of those who depend on the water sports industry,” Whitfield said.

As head coach of Triathlon South Africa’s Junior Development Academy, Rumbelow can’t carry out the required development camp in the city which is funded by both the Lotto and the government.

In his letter he writes: “The Newton Park pool is the only place where synchronised swimming can take place under heated conditions. Eastern Province schools water polo has for years carried out their team training at the facility.

“How can they prepare for the South African Schools tournament to be held in East London during the second week of December?”

The existing main pool which was built in the 1950s was originally painted blue and later tiled.

Thembela Architects undertook six site inspections over the course of a week. The extent of the problem was determined by marking up loose tiles on the tile layout drawing and tapping virtually all the tiles with a broom handle to locate “hollow” tiles that have delaminated from the concrete floor but have not yet “tented” or “popped”.

The scope of the problem according to a report is that the amount of delaminating (hollow) tiles is relatively extensive, beyond what is obvious to the eye.

The majority of these tiles are in the main pool floor in lanes 7 and 8 towards the shallow end and the deep end. There are patches in the middle of the pool, the deep end and near the side wall at lane 1 and a small amount on the side wall at lane 1.

The warm-up pool has a relatively small number of hollow tiles on the floor in the deep end, a small amount on the west-side wall and deep-end wall. A relatively large number of tiles on the east side wall are delaminating and starting to “tent” .

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