With the school holidays looming and the season-start for Tenterfield Pool scheduled for Saturday, September 29, a new contract to manage the pool has been finalised in the nick of time although it’s not sitting well with some in the community who had preferred local applicants.
The need for demonstrable depth and breadth of expertise across many aspects of what is arguably council’s highest risk asset has been cited as the reason for the decision.
The contract has been awarded to Just SportsnFitness, described as ‘a well-established company managing gym, swim, sports and leisure facilities with over 23 pools, water parks, gyms and cafes in the Ipswich and Brisbane areas.’
The contract is for two years with the option to extend for a further four years.
One of the directors of Just SportsnFitness is Justin Lemberg, an Olympic bronze swimming medallist from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
“Justin has property and family here in Tenterfield and is looking forward to being able to share his passion of swimming with the community,” Mayor Peter Petty said.
Lauren and Josh Lavea and their three children are relocating from Brisbane to manage the pool for Just SportsnFitness, which anticipates employing local members of the community to complete the staffing requirements.
Council’s Chief Corporate Officer Kylie Smith said there was the option for council to extend the contract of the previous operator, Jeff Moss, but necessary changes were considered to be so significant that it was unfair to expect him to continue under the same arrangements, although it certainly didn’t preclude him from retendering.
These changes include updates to the Office of Local Government’s ‘Practice Note 15’ relating to water safety, reflecting legislative and policy changes; updates to Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations provided by Surf Life Saving Association Australia; and council’s own Procurement Policy guidelines and NSW Audit Office recommendations relating to contract management, which weren’t reflected in the existing contract.
Ms Smith said the new contract also clarifies the responsibilities borne by the individual running the pool and those borne by council, along with other changes that tie in with council’s performance framework.
“Given the changes, council chose to go out to tender,” Ms Smith said.
With council’s limited experience with pool contracts and to maintain independence, the tendering process was outsourced to Local Government Procurement (LGP) but there was only one response.
“On evaluation the local application didn’t achieve the points necessary to warrant consideration,” Ms Smith said.
Council then put out feelers and Mr Lemberg’s offer was evaluated, along with several others.
“Our ultimate aim is to get the best result we can for the community at large, in one of the most risky community ventures, and I have great confidence that we’ve done that,” Ms Smith said.
Fees and charges for pool use have already been set for the season, and Ms Smith doesn’t anticipate any major changes in coming years. In fact council is keen to maintain fees while boosting visitation, to achieve a lower cost per head.
Strategies to achieve this include wider advertising of the facility and a range of special events, to encourage more people through the door.
“This is a high risk asset and we wanted to procure the best people with the highest level of skill to keep the community safe, and encourage more use,” Ms Smith said.
Mayor Peter Petty expressed his thanks to Mr Moss, noting his dedication and professionalism.
“I wish Jeff every success in the future,” Cr Petty said.
Looking for the silver lining
Jeff Moss held the previous contract for a five-year term which finished at season’s close in March. He had expected the five-year contract extension to be executed, and said he was shocked and disappointed to be told that the contract would be advertised.
While he could have applied he said he felt he had lost trust in council, and in any case was offered management of the Emmaville Pool by Glen Innes Shire Council. It might be just the change he needs.
“Maybe it’s a silver lining thing,” he said, although he feels he let the town down.
He’s confident that, despite the discontinuation of his contract, if council wasn’t to go with him it has made the right decision for the town in taking the more-experienced option over the local applicants, given his knowledge of the complexity of the operation.
“I’ve been involved with pools since 1990 and I’m still learning.”
He said there’s much more to the job than people are aware of, such as handling potentially-lethal chemicals and managing the pumping systems. He could be there at midnight still cleaning up after a child defacated in the pool, or jumping out of bed in the middle of the night to make sure the facility was secure when a thunderstorm hit. He considered the pool his ‘baby’.
He is now volunteering his time to ensure a smooth handover to the new operators, and is encouraging them to contact him with any issues he can help resolve over their first season.
He will remain a regular user of the pool and said he always took great pleasure in ensuring the facility looked its best, that the water was sparkling and the lawns were well-tended, and is keen to see that continue.
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