Editor’s note: The following is the letter read by Gay Olanski to High Prairie town council at its meeting June 26.
I have been asked to come and speak to town council on behalf of our Aqua Fit group and other community members.
We were also told by the pool manager that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” So here I am, squeak, squeak, squeak.
First off I want to tell you that I have had several people ask me to come here and speak for them because they are afraid of retaliation, these are not pool staff members. Although I don’t know how any staff person working at our pool could not be concerned that they may be the next person to be terminated. Just the fact that people are afraid to speak up about a community resource should tell you that something is very wrong here.
These are our outstanding concerns:
– That we have been told by both the pool manager and the recreation director that the pool needs to run more like a business, and that if there are not enough participants our program, [Aqua Fit] would need to be cancelled, the possibility of cancelling it for the summer was shared with us. We know now this won’t happen this summer.
– No pool in Alberta makes money, and all the outdoor pools in Edmonton are free this year and last year, so they are not run like a business. Our pool is not a business, and should not be treated like a business, our pool is a service. Our pool should be a service that attracts people to our community.
– We are concerned that we would be asked to pay on top of our annual pass, approximately $100 for six weeks of Aqua Fit. This kind of fee is virtually unheard of with the exception of the new Valleyview pool participants having to pay extra right now for Aqua Fit. Valleyview and Greenview residents also pay no membership fees if you are 70 years or older, and their pool is usually open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and offers a lot more than our pool. This extra charge would make Aqua Fit unaffordable for those on a fixed income.
– If people are not using the pool, you better do an evaluation to find out why, is it the limited hours it is open, is it the cost is too high for some, is it lack of or too much programming, is it the kind of programming, is it the atmosphere as in people are afraid to go, or they do not want the drama, do they see the pool as just another toxic environment.
– We are also concerned that we get a great instructor or a great pool manager, and then they are terminated. Since I have been back in High Prairie in October 2013 there have been five different managers at the pool. Something is wrong. What is with terminating people, it may be legal but is it fair?
– We are also concerned that when it was brought to our attention that we would have to pay a large fee on top of our annual pass, that this had not been communicated to us in writing, and that we had not had anything in writing that said what our membership included.
– We are also concerned about the shrinking hours that pool is open to the public. This started last year when the pool manager was let go and a lot of the staff resigned, they simply didn’t have the staff to cover, and there were times I went to the pool when it was to be open, and no one was there, well you give some understanding, but now our swim times have been limited even more, and it seems there is staff sitting around. This does not look good and leaves patrons feeling they are not welcome. This does not look good for High Prairie. I have had former staff tell me that they were asked to come back and work at the pool and they flat out refused because of the overall management.
– In case council or anyone else watching doesn’t know this, our Aqua Fit instructor didn’t just instruct Aqua Fit for the recreation board. She also painted the pool change rooms and the performing arts change room, the front lobby, taught Aqua Dance, Body Rolling, Pound, Pilates, Belly Dancing, and I am sure she did other helpful and contributing duties. She got along very well with staff and patrons, and was always able to help us get the most out of any classes we took with her. It is because of her abilities that most of went on to take Body Rolling, Pound, Pilates, and other classes.
We did talk to the pool manager and we did talk to the recreation director, we did not get all of our concerns answered, and although we talked about what an amazing instructor we had, she was still terminated. And yesterday morning, five of us showed up for Aqua Fit, we had no instructor, although it was explained to us later, that this was the result of a miscommunication.
I did talk with Brian Gilroy about my concerns. I was not able to attend your last meeting and he brought my concerns to council at that time. The next day we suddenly had a meeting with the recreation director.
We would like to see: our instructor back, an evaluation of services and staff and management structure, clarity and equality with other pools about our annual passes that we pay for. If we have to pay for Aqua Fit on top of our annual pass we will not be purchasing annual passes. We would like to see our pool enjoyed and appreciated for the wonderful community resource it is, by as many community members as possible, not laughed at and mocked as a firing ground.