Construction works at the Ballina Memorial Swimming Pool.
Construction works at the Ballina Memorial Swimming Pool. Claudia Jambor

Ballina pools might not be open in time for summer

UNFORESEEN construction issues are threatening Ballina Shire Council's promise to have the redeveloped Ballina and Alstonville pools open in time for summer.

The council is in a dispute with its principal contractor, Woollam Constructions, over the costs of removing larger than expected amounts of asbestos from the old pools.

The pools also require a major electrical upgrade which was not anticipated in the planning stages of the project.

Council staff have noted the issues "may have significant cost and time implications", with a confidential discussion over the issues scheduled to follow tomorrow's council meeting.

Ballina Shire Council group manager of community facilities Steve Barnier said the council was in ongoing negotiations over the asbestos dispute.

"Basically Woollam are saying the costs of the removal and remediation of the asbestos material shouldn't be borne by them," Mr Barnier said.

"The council at this point in time doesn't accept that position so that's what the discussion is currently about.

"We're not apportioning blame... what we're trying to do is move ahead with the project obviously at the least cost to ratepayers and get the facilities open as soon as possible."

The dispute with Woollam has not affected the pace of work on the pool redevelopments, which are currently at the tiling stage.

However, the problem with the electrical upgrades could delay the opening.

"We took advice from specialist pool consultants before we let the construction contract and that advice was the power supply to both pools was adequate to cater for the redevelopments," Mr Barnier explained.

"As the construction work has been undertaken it has become evident that the information was incorrect and the advice is we need to upgrade the power supply.

"That may affect the opening timeline."

The council is looking at whether it could use portable generators in the interim, but that remains to be seen.

Council borrowed $14 million to fund the project and the loan repayments are being funded by a special rate variation imposed on ratepayers.

Woollam commenced the demolition of the two 40-plus year old pools in February, with the council promising that the community would be "cooling off in revamped and modern facilities" before the start of 2018.

When complete, each facility will have a brand new FINA compliant 50m pool, with eight 2.5m-wide lanes, and a 25m x 15m heated enclosable pool for swimming lessons, children's play, lap swimming and rehabilitation.

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