Operations blowout for pools

ALBURY Council has been unable to settle on an operator for the Albury and Lavington pools for the next four years after a budget blowout on bids submitted by two contenders.

The council’s community and cultural committee this week agreed to enter into further negotiations with the present operators, Albury Aquatic Management, in a bid to have a deal signed by July 1.

Its bid was $726,869 over the council’s budgeted figure of $1,038,131, but a rival submission from YMCA was more than $1.3 million over.

The committee decided not to accept the two tenders, but has authorised general manager Frank Zaknich to negotiate with Albury Aquatic Management on a deal which could include a reduction in the Lavington Swim Centre season by two weeks.

The cost blowout has been driven by the inclusion of “consumables” — electricity, gas and chemicals — and a massive drop in patronage at both pools.

Albury’s pool patronage last season fell 15 per cent, but the drop was even bigger at Lavington (35 per cent), on the 10-year average.

WAVES Wodonga opening last summer had its anticipated impact, but Lavington pool is also used less for water polo competition.

Patronage income on present figures will mean a loss of $520,000 in the next four years.

Costs of consumables was previously borne by the council, but was included in the management fee as part of the ongoing service and efficiency review.

Council director James Jenkins said the estimated cost of consumables from the two bidders was higher than expected.

“They don’t want to be left wearing any large increases, particularly electricity,” he said.

“The path we are going down provides a lot of different opportunities to negotiate on how that might be structured.”

The option to reduce the Lavington season by one week in October and one week in March was included in the tender document.

Lavington pool is expensive to run then due to higher heating costs.

The contract start date is July 1 and the council is under pressure to clinch a deal with Albury Aquatic Management directors Paul Tanner and Lawrie McInnes to ensure the pools open on time.

Cr Henk van de Ven said the changed operating environment created by WAVES was a factor in the council’s considerations.

“AAM submitted the most competitive quantitative tender and were recommended to council as preferred operator,” he said.