STAWELL - Three Stawell residents are leading the charge, calling on Northern Grampians Shire Council to change the opening hours of the Stawell Leisure Complex swimming pool.
John Pollock, Graeme Hughes and Terry Monaghan presented a letter along with a petition with more than 600 signatures, to Northern Grampians Shire chief executive officer, Justine Linley last week.
The Stawell Leisure Complex pool is currently open for group bookings between 9am and 1pm, but not for individuals, with many families being sent away during the hot summer mornings that the town has been experiencing.
The petition is in response to the decision made to restrict residents access.
Ratepayers who have signed the petition are asking that the opening hours be reverted back to what they were before the new year - 6am to 8pm weekdays and 1pm to 6pm on weekends.
Mr Pollock, Mr Hughes and Mr Monaghan are all long term Stawell Leisure Complex swimming members and users and decided something must be done to stop the closure of the pool.
Between the three of them, they took the initiative of writing the petition mid-January and the support from the public since has been overwhelming.
"We haven't really worked hard to get signatures. It took about two weeks to get more than 600," Mr Pollock said.
Mr Pollock explained the reasoning behind the letter and petition.
"Our main problem is that there has been no consultation with the users of the pool," he said.
"It's a community service and one of our newly elected councillors sat in the Stawell Leisure Complex carpark on a hot Thursday morning and counted more than2 0 families being turned away from the pool between 10am and 12noon."
The letter addressed to Ms Linley that accompanied the petition detailed the issues presented by the petitioners and some of these include:
Residents rates are increasing each year and their access to services is diminishing;
Mothers and grandmothers have complained about the pool not being open early on hot days, preventing them from taking children for a swim in the early part before extreme heat arrives;
The closure of the pool to individuals between 9am to 1pm has a major impact on shift workers ability to access the pool. It should be noted that once the group bookings have left the pool it is still staffed, but doesn't allow individuals in for a swim.
Older pool users are finding it difficult to use the pool as the shorter opening hours are causing the indoor pool to be overcrowded and there is not enough room for them to complete their exercise routines.
Why can St Arnaud residents access their pool for free, when Stawell, who are in the same shire have to pay?
There is concern among the three men that the closure of the pool has been due to financial reasons.
Northern Grampians Shire Council recently had to backpay staff tens of thousands of dollars after it was found they had been underpaying them for the past seven years.
"This looks like it has been dragged out of the pool budget," Mr Hughes said.
"Stawell Leisure Complex is a great employer of kids, but they have overspent because of backpay."
"We're not administrators of the pool, we're just ratepayers who are happy to help," Mr Pollock said, adding the men are thinking of forming a pool users group to help the swimming pool be fully utilised.
If funding is the main problem, the three men have suggested to the Shire that they multi-skill staff already employed to man the reception area.
This would allow lifeguards to do what they are trained for and that is keeping the community safe while in the water.The trio also have plenty of ideas to get people to the pool if their requests are met.
There have also been suggestions of men's health programs, aerobics classes for ladies and adding more swimming sessions for mothers with young babies.
"Childhood obesity and type two diabetes are a real concern in our society and one way to limit/reduce this is through exercise," Mr Pollock said.
"We need to get more children using the pool, the last time they had a pool party more than 200 children turned up, there should be several pool parties over the summer months.
"Pool maintenance is also a big concern, it would appear that there is no cyclic maintenance program at present and this has seen the out door pool closed on three separate occasions this summer," he said.