Ararat Rural City Council will upgrade the Ararat Fitness Centre and the Willaura and Lake Bolac swimming pools with ongoing savings it makes through bringing the services’ management in-house.
Council CEO Dr Tim Harrison said it is anticipated the saving will be around $1.1 million over the first five-year period, from 2019/20 to 2024/25.
Dr Harrison said the upgrades to important recreational infrastructure in Ararat, Lake Bolac and Willaura would happen over the next 18 months.
“This will be achieved through a loan of up to $2.5 million, which would be serviced through the ongoing savings to Council from ending the contract of current managers Unified Community Sports and Leisure (UCSL) and bringing service delivery in-house,” he said.
“Some of the funds will also be used to upgrade and repair ageing infrastructure at the Willaura Outdoor Memorial Pool and the Peter O’Rorke Lake Bolac Memorial Pool. UCSL manage both rural pools, plus the Ararat Fitness Centre and the Ararat Outdoor Olympic Pool.”
Council will also be actively seeking grants from the State and Federal governments to further offset the cost of the upgrade projects.
Dr Harrison said Council last week resolved to end the UCSL contract 10 months early after a report identified significant savings could be made by bringing management in-house.
He said Council had this morning given UCSL two months’ notice, as required in the contract, and confirmed that all current staff would have secure employment for at least three months after the Council takes control of the services on October 28.
“Council is very aware of the uncertainty that this change brings to staff and we want to work with them as soon as possible to talk about their future employment with the centre.
“This is an economic decision that will not only provide a much-needed infrastructure upgrade to important Council facilities, but will also allow Council to create a stronger link with our community through direct provision of this key service.
Dr Harrison said Council would work with key user groups and the broader community to redevelop the Ararat Fitness Centre facilities to improve accessibility and provide a more up-to-date environment.
“As centre users will already know, the Ararat Fitness Centre is in need of an upgrade and Council has already started work on plans for this. We will refine these plans through broad consultation,” he said.
“The Council is very excited about the possibilities these upgrades will bring, and we hope the community will be very happy to hear the centre will be getting some much-needed attention.”
Dr Harrison said draft plans for the fitness centre upgrade would be presented to stakeholders and centre users for feedback by the end of the year.
“This is great news for the community – the Ararat Fitness Centre is no longer up to modern standard with areas including accessibility, change spaces and exercise areas needing a lot of attention,” Dr Harrison said.
“The two rural swimming pools at Lake Bolac and Willaura are also in urgent need of upgrades and we are pleased we will be able to undertake the necessary work there after this decision.”
UCSL has held the contract managing the four facilities since October 2015.