The Tungamah Swimming Pool will be closed this summer and will never reopen.
The ageing pool has been left high and dry after the Victorian Department of Education and Training moved to terminate a 50-year old Joint User Agreement between the department, the Tungamah Primary School and the former Tungamah Shire Council.
The education department, through the Victorian School Building Authority, then offered Moira Shire Council the opportunity to lease the Tungamah Swimming Pool.
The offer was declined by council at their September meeting.
As a result, the Tungamah Swimming Pool will be permanently closed.
The move by the education department to terminate the Joint User Agreement and subsequently try to offload the pool came as a surprise to the Tungamah Primary School Council according to President Tom Wren.
“The part that has made us really angry is how the department went about it,” Mr Wren said.
“The first we heard of it was when it came up on the Moira Shire Council meeting agenda and it said that it was the school council that wanted to terminate the Joint User Agreement.
“That is completely untrue.
“The school council did not make any move to terminate the agreement at any stage.”
The Moira Shire Council agenda for the September meeting said “On 21 August 2017 council received correspondence from the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) to advise that the Tungamah Primary School Council has requested the JUA (Joint User Agreement) be terminated on the basis that the school council is no longer able to support the pool’s operation”.
The agenda also included a recommendation noting the Tungamah Primary School Council’s wish to terminate the Joint User Agreement.
That recommendation was later removed from proceedings and was not voted on at the meeting after Mr Wren said he and other members of the school council protested.
“We found out about it and had around 24 hours to make it very clear that the information they had was completely untrue,” he said.
“At no time did the school council seek to terminate the agreement and we were really angry the department had made out that we did.
“The Tungamah School Council is extremely disappointed with the way the education department has gone about this whole thing.
“We don’t want to close the pool. We never have and any suggestion we have is false.”
An officer’s report to the Moira Shire Council September meeting stated in reference to the Tungamah Pool “due to the ageing infrastructure impacting ongoing operational and capital costs and exceptionally low levels of patronage, it is recommended that council decline the VSBA’s offer of a lease to enable council management of the pool”.
The report says “the immediate impact of closing the pool will be felt by the Tungamah Primary School who run their summer swim program and sports carnival from the site. There will also be some ramifications for a small portion of the township that use the facility for recreational purposes”.
Moira Shire Council endorsed the recommendation, moved and seconded by Cr Wendy Buck and Cr Peter Mansfield respectively, to decline the VSBA lease offer.
Following the decision a spokesperson for the Victorian Department of Education and Training said “the Moira Shire Council declined an exclusive offer from the Victorian School Building Authority to lease and manage the pool on behalf of the community”.
“Removing a community pool is a difficult decision to make but given the financial burden on the school it is the right one for the students,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Wren said while the school council and the community understood the significant costs associated with operating the pool, all were very disappointed the pool would be permanently closed.
“The students used the pool for their swimming program and other schools did also at times,” he said.
“Now we have to load kids onto buses and take them to Yarrawonga or Benalla pools for swimming lessons.
“We understand the economics of it, but no matter which way you look at it this is the loss of an asset to the town of Tungamah and the community.
“As a school council we would love to be able to keep the pool but at this point there is nothing we can do to save it.”