Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Many woes at Sherbrook Pool

Raft of issues listed in documents about aging core facility

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AGE is starting to catch up with a much-beloved inner-city pool.

Documents obtained through a freedom-of-information request reveal parts of the Sherbrook Pool have deteriorated to the point where they have been deemed "antiquated" or beyond their "useful life." Facility condition index reports from 2011 and 2012 show the pool's concrete floors, exterior brick-and-stone walls and foundation are damaged and everything from the heating and cooling system, electrical service, plumbing and pipes to the water heater and washrooms are considered "aged." The roof, exterior doors, floor and wall finishes are all past their lifespan, and the reports also flagged concerns over toxic asbestos-containing materials, possible lead paint, damage to the exterior walls and non-compliant security alarms.

The condition assessments are done by a visual inspection and are a guide to improving a facility, city documents said.

City of Winnipeg officials were not available for an interview on Friday.

The issue rose to national attention when Guy Maddin, maker of the acclaimed documentary My Winnipeg that includes the Sherbrook Pool as a prominent locale, wrote Mayor Sam Katz to say he's "extremely saddened" to hear about the possible closure.

"My film, My Winnipeg, is a fanciful and affectionate look at what is really a great city, the city I love, our Winnipeg.

"In the movie, I dreamed there are actually three levels to Sherbrook Pool -- that's how deeply I felt that facility rooted itself in our city's collective memory," he wrote.

The pool closed in November after inspectors discovered 10 pillars supporting the roof had eroded. City officials said the pool's superintendent initially noticed paint peeling on the concrete tiles that encase the pillars and an engineer subsequently found corrosion hidden beneath the concrete tiles.

The city has since cancelled all swimming lessons at the pool. Officials have not said when the facility will reopen and are waiting for the findings of an external engineering report before releasing more details.

The pool's condition reports come amid a push for the city to spend money to ensure the facility reopens.

The group Friends of the Sherbrook Pool have urged council's executive policy committee to include funding for pool repairs in its 2013 budget. Former patrons said the facility is badly needed in the neighbourhood, and is one of the few city pools with warmer water and easy access for seniors.

Finance chairman Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) declined to comment on whether or not Winnipeg will spend additional money on the facility, saying he will wait to see a report on the matter. However, Wyatt said the pool's closure is a symptom of the challenges facing Winnipeg's aging infrastructure. Many city facilities were built in the 1950s -- the Sherbrook Pool in the 1930s -- and are reaching a point where they are coming to the end of their lifespan, he said.

Wyatt said the Arlington Bridge is one example, as the city currently spends millions to maintain the structure that may not have that many years left. The city plans to spend $1.5 million this year to study whether the bridge should be replaced, undergo major reconstruction or be decommissioned.

"There comes a point when it's a bad investment because the amount you're spending is exceeding the ability to get any more years of productive use out of that bridge," Wyatt said.

Wyatt said the infrastructure problem is compounded by the fact other levels of government have "abandoned" the city and said no to things that would help Winnipeg raise more money to address the problem, including enacting a municipal sales tax.

The Sherbrook Pool is the latest city facility closed due to safety concerns. In August, the city announced the sudden and immediate closure of the Civic Centre Parkade after engineers declared the Princess Street facility suffers from structural-integrity issues.

jen.skerrittt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2013 A3

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