By Mike Layton
The phone started ringing in my office almost immediately. Why is the Alex Duff Memorial Pool closed during the hottest days of summer? Why wasn’t the pool fixed earlier in the season? Why doesn’t it look like anyone is working on it?
All valid questions that deserved answers. And especially when the pool we are talking about is the Duff, which features a 25-metre lap pool, a shallow splash pool for children, a conversation pool, and a deep pool for diving with both a one-metre spring board and a two-storey water slide.
We were all watching the sealant dry.
Why the delay? Let’s go back to 2015.
Last season, the liner in one the pools began to strip away, and as a result that pool needed to be closed. The problem was temporarily resolved, but City of Toronto staff planned for a more thorough repair before the 2016 swim season.
Given the anticipated scope of work being limited to liner repair, city staff scheduled the necessary repairs for late 2015, after the end of the swim season.
Repairs began as planned in October 2015, but as the liner was removed they discovered the damage was far greater. It wasn’t only the liner that was damaged, but the pool was leaking almost half-a-pool worth of water daily.
Staff determined the necessary scope of work was beyond their expertise and that these repairs would need to be completed by a contractor. This required a bidding process to ensure both fairness and competitive prices which normally takes months. It takes even longer when, as happened in this case, an unsuccessful bidder objects and the process goes through a legal review, delaying the work even further.
Once the contract was finally awarded, city staff worked to ensure the pools could be opened as quickly as possible. They approved work through the night and on the weekends.
We ran into another delay in the weeks leading up to the scheduled opening because the special order sealant used in the pool was delivered late and needed a week to dry. This is why, in early July, many of us in the neighbourhood thought that no work was being done for days. We were all watching the sealant dry.
Because of the delays, I asked the general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation to extend pool hours for the community. They said yes. We gained extra hours and a few extra weeks into the fall.
While I am grateful for the repairs and the extended pool hours, I am walking away with a few lessons, one of them being that contracting out too many of our repairs and services contributes to delay, as was the case here, and places us at the whim of contractors. It would be better if more asset repairs could be done in house and then residents and those in need of cooling during hot summer days wouldn’t be left waiting. The second lesson was that we should be more proactive with our city assets and not wait for problems to arise before attempting to fix them. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but had we caught this sooner through inspections, it might have been a much simpler and much faster repair.
Thankfully the Duff at Christie Pits is finally open and it’s hopping. My family and I have been visiting and I hope you’ve had the time to enjoy it too. Thank you for your patience as permanent repairs were made and please, no running on the pool deck.
The Alex Duff Memorial Pool will be open from 12:00 to 9:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday until Labour Day. Thereafter, until Sept. 18, it will be open from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Mike Layton is the councillor for Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina.
READ MORE BY MIKE LAYTON:
FORUM: A tribute to a friend (June 2016)
FORUM: Large problem, small solution (March 2016)
FORUM: Happy New Year from a new Dad with a new perspective (January 2016)