City pulls the plug on funding S.H. Armstrong pool

S.H. Armstrong pool PHOTO: Lara O'Keefe

After a lengthy budget meeting that lasted well into the wee hours of February 15th, city councillors voted against funding that would have preserved city programming at S.H. Armstrong pool.

On an amendment that would have returned money cut from the pool as part of the 2017 budget, council voted against ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon’s bid to save the pool. The budget passed with a 27-16 vote.

The Duke of Connaught/S.H. Armstrong pool is one the TDSB pools in the city that has required annual city funding to operate because of the provincial funding model, with the school and the city sharing the space. The city has opted to move city programming from three of these pools to other city pools nearby in an attempt to save around $200,000.

But according to Toronto District School Board communications officer Ryan Bird, even with the vote against funding, city programming will continue for the remainder of the school year.

But he is less certain that it can continue long-term.

“Given that the city has cut funding for pools (including community use of pools), the board will also have to assess whether we can keep these pools open for community use after school hours,” he said.

The outcome comes after weeks of heated discussions that even involved Olympian Penny Oleksiak, a defender of S.H. Armstrong’s programming.

The decision followed a city executive committee meeting on February 7 where the votes were not as close.

At that meeting, McMahon introduced motions to amend two items on the agenda, One, to increase the city’s 2017 parks, forest and recreation operating budget by $85,000 as a way to reverse potential cuts to the S.H. Armstrong pool and keep city programming at the community centre. But this option was quickly taken off the table following an 8-4 vote against it by committee members, including Mayor John Tory who voted no despite earlier tweets that suggested his support for saving the pool.

McMahon had also motioned to establish a working committee that would include representatives from the Toronto District School Board, surrounding community, and city staff to work on a plan that would increase the number of people and groups using the pool. The committee would be expected to report findings to the Community Department and Recreation Committee by the fourth quarter of 2017.

Although McMahon’s motion to transfer city programming was ultimately defeated, she said she was heartened to find that her second motion to establish a working committee to increase utilization of the pool was carried and had stated she was “hopeful that we will live to fight another day at council.”

But despite a good fight by residents, many of whom  braved the snow and cold on February 12 to rally against the closure, including McMahon and a host of other avid supporters like ward 31 councillor Janet Davis, and Jennifer Story, Trustee for the Toronto-Danforth TDSB, it wasn’t enough to convince council as a whole to keep paying for the pool.

Moving forward, Bird promised to “keep all impacted communities informed as we move through the TDSB’s process.”

This article has been updated.

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So McMahon votes in favour of across-the-board budget cuts at the City level … until those budget cuts impact on her ward. Then she introduces motions to reverse the effects of the budget cuts she initially approved.

I’m scratching my head.

I think the money is there. The question is or may be will you get more votes keeping the pool open or less votes if you find savings in the amalgamation of Applegrove which is only a few metres away from SH Armstrong Community Centre. If MMM isn’t running again, then she has nothing to lose. She will have to decide who to fight with. Swimmers or Applegrove members. The easy way out is to pass it over to a committee, who in the end will find they will have to ask Council for pool money or recommend savings in amalgamation. SO I guess the councilor goes to where the votes are. But if she’s not running-what’s the problem.

I am surprised that MMM may not have looked at amalgamating Applegrove Community Complex with SH Armstrong CC.
Applegrove is apparently a City funded community centre located steps from a city funded recreation centre (SH Armstrong) and Applegrove is only a room or two in the actual school and I think may have a few small satellite programs. Close Applegrove, take the savings and apply them to the pool and to SH Armstrong and SHArmstrong assume what ever programs Applegrove runs. They need a program audit.

They receive about $ 362,000 a year in the city budget. This will upset a few people, but if the pool is in demand then its a question of priority setting and amalgamation to produce savings.

I remember when the centre was opened and what a thrill for children to have use of swimming year round. This was the start of the change to senior public school. Those educators had a vision for the future. Now that vision for a new concept of swimming has been taken away. Did not your mayor say he would help keep the pool open?

I noted with interest, courtesy of Sue Ann Levy, that the city found $85,000 from another budget line (Planning Act reserves) for something else:

“Take the $85,000 rainbow mural called Full Spectrum – mounted on a wall near Maitland and Church -….. which was created by the voice of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), Elle Flanders.” ( )

Greater minds than ours.

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