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Torontonians hoping to cool off at a public outdoor pool this summer may find it more difficult than usual as maintenance issues and staff shortages plague civic swimming spots.
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With the municipal swimming season just days away, word came this week that the popular Donald D. Summerville Olympic Pool near Woodbine Beach Park will be closed until next year, after the personnel discover damage to their coat.
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The city confirmed Friday that two other outdoor pools will remain closed for maintenance this summer, while a fourth will open late to allow for urgent repairs.
Toronto has 58 outdoor pools, and while most will be open as usual, local councilor Brad Bradford (Ward 19, Beaches-East York) said Summerville’s closure is a blow to his community, especially after two years of pandemic restrictions.
“As things start to open up, people want to get out, they want to be together again, and this is an iconic amenity of the city that is loved and used a lot in the summer. So any downtime we get is not good,” he said.
According to the city, staff evaluated the liners at Summerville’s 25- and 50-meter pools at the end of the 2022 season and thought they might last another year, but the inclement winter weather had an unexpected effect.
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Staff believe they can make repairs to the smaller training pool in time to open at the end of July, but will not be able to locate and install a liner for the larger pool this year. It will be installed as part of a larger improvement project in 2023.
Bradford said staff only notified him of the extent of the problems in Summerville on Wednesday and said the city needs to do a better job of identifying and completing repairs to recreational facilities during the season.
“What’s unfortunate here is that we’re going to have a number of pools that are established during the peak summer months,” he said. “We should be better.”
In addition to Summerville, the pool at the Gord and Irene Risk Community Center in the Humber Summit neighborhood will also be closed until 2023 to allow for repair work, while the pool at Ledbury Park in North York will be closed until next year due to construction. delays the city attributed to “work stoppages, unforeseen site conditions and ongoing supply issues.”
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The opening of Riverdale East Park’s pool was also delayed until the end of July, after repairs to its concrete basin turned out to be more extensive than expected.
The city would not say whether more pools than usual are out of service this year, but Howie Dayton, Toronto’s director of community recreation, stressed that the vast majority will be open to the public.
“Great care is taken to assess and value pools prior to their opening and, unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances can arise,” he said.
Dayton said the city is doing everything it can to mitigate the impacts of the closure, including relocating instructional programming and adjusting service levels at nearby pools.
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Ten outdoor pools are scheduled to open Saturday with limited hours and 45 will begin partial hours on June 25, with all functional pools beginning full hours on June 30.
In addition to repair issues, the city faces a shortage of water personnel that risks affecting operations. So far, the city has confirmed about 84 percent of the approximately 840 lifeguards it needs to supervise its indoor and outdoor pools, and only 67 percent of the 160 lifeguards needed for beaches.
The city blames the shortfall on certification programs that were suspended during COVID-19 and says it stepped up its hiring efforts in the spring. Dayton said the city still aims to have a full complement of summer employees, but didn’t rule out some pools being forced to operate on reduced hours.
CUPE Local 79, the union representing Toronto’s part-time recreation workers, said the city would have an easier time attracting and retaining staff if it raised its “non-competitive” wages. Aquatic program assistants earn $15.35 an hour, while pool lifeguards earn $17.21.
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“Why incur significant certification costs to work in a job with excessive responsibility when you can secure almost any other entry-level service job for the same fee?” Local 79 President Casey Barnett said.
He said the union has requested an urgent meeting with the city to discuss wages and other options “to preserve and hopefully expand the city’s aquatics programs that so many Torontonians depend on.”
Ben Spurr is a Toronto reporter who covers municipal and city politics for The Star. Contact him by email at bspurr@.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr
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The pool will remain open the rest of the year instead of closing for maintenance in August, September: city
Maple Ridge Leisure Centre’s aquatic facility pools have been cleaned and all metal debris has been removed, according to a city news release. (Maple Ridge Parks, Recreation and Culture)
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The pools at the center have been cleaned and all metal debris has been removed, according to a news release from the City of Maple Ridge.
“We appreciate the patience of the community and our regular pool users as we worked as quickly as possible to address the metal debris found in some of the pool tanks.” said Stephane Labonne, general manager of Maple Ridge Parks, Recreation & Culture, in the written statement.
He added that the pool will remain open the rest of the year instead of closing for scheduled maintenance for four weeks in August and September. Labonne said staff were able to perform regular maintenance during the emergency shutdown.
One of the center’s pools was closed for the first time the week of June 20 after tiny metal wires were discovered in the water. The pool was emptied, cleaned and magnetically swept to remove any remaining particles.
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However, on June 29, more metal debris was discovered in the lane pool, leisure pool and hot tub, and the entire aquatic facility was closed indefinitely.
During the emergency shutdown, maintenance personnel inspected the ceiling beams and overhead ducts and found five beams with metal debris and remnants of wires connected to the out-of-service overhead speaker system, according to the release of press
Debris was removed, all pools were drained and a full magnetic sweep was performed followed by a power wash of the pool tanks. The covers of the swimming pools, the sauna, the steam room, the storage rooms and the walkways have also been cleaned, according to the municipality.
During the shutdown, maintenance crews ramped up work that would normally be completed during a scheduled annual shutdown, including grouting touches to the pool deck, painting and deep cleaning of the aquatic area and equipment program
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The city said city staff has contacted all customers who had scheduled programming that was affected by the emergency closure to offer refunds or to reschedule whenever possible. Three of Surrey’s eight outdoor pools will open for public swimming by mid-month, with the other five opening a few weeks later.
Bear Creek, Greenaway and Sunnyside pools will open on May 17, followed by Hjorth Road on June 5 and Holly, Kwantlen, Port Kells and Unwin pools on June 26.
Admission to the pools is free and swim times are posted at tidesout.com, along with lesson information, or call 604-531-8855. Tides Out manages the city’s outdoor pools.
Safety protocols are in place that include limited capacity for public swimming, and swim times will be in 45-minute blocks “to ensure everyone’s access,” according to pool officials.
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“Timetables have returned to traditional times prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says a post on the website. “Some schedule changes may be made if necessary as we get closer to the opening dates. Please check back and we will post updates as we have more information.”
Safety measures include limited access to changing rooms, no pool toys, private hire or birthday party bookings and no life jackets will be provided. Additionally, lane swimming is only offered at Bear Creek Park Pool and Hjorth Road Pool during specified hours.
“We will be actively monitoring outdoor pools throughout the summer and may modify procedures as necessary,” the Tides Out website says.
Meanwhile, only two of Surrey’s five indoor pools are currently open: Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex and Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre. Opening dates to be announced
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