Floating water park generates pointed exchange at Gimli council
Deputy mayor Richard Petrowski and Thora Palson, from left, support a planned floating water park. Coun. Peter Holfeuer, right, called it “a huge mistake”.
The planned opening of a floating water park on the water off Gimli Beach in the summer of 2020 became the focus of a sometimes heated exchange among the three elected officials at Gimli council’s recent regular meeting Feb. 27.
Council was considering a request from the water park proponent for an extension. She had planned to open the water-based business this summer. That plan had been approved by the previous council in the fall of 2018.
Coun. Peter Holfeuer argued that the business would compete with the municipality’s money-losing outdoor aquatic centre, while deputy mayor Richard Petrowski and Coun. Thora Palson said the floating water park would be a welcome addition to the community. (Petrowski and Palson were on the previous council that approved the original plan.)
Holfeuer noted that in its first year of operation last summer the aquatic centre wound up in the red about $100,000 after generating just over $60,000 in revenue.
The floating water park “is going to take away from the aquatic centre,” Holfeuer said. “I don’t think it is a step forward. It’s a step backwards. This doesn’t make sense to me.”
“We’re giving away our beach.”
He noted that, should the extension for the business be approved, there would be competition for lifeguards, already in short supply during Gimli’s relatively short summer season.
Coun. Palson said the planned water park is more geared to adults. “The water park has to be a certain depth,” she said. “It’s not something that has to be on the beach. This water park will complement the other water features that our town has. I think the fee is substantially higher than our pool, and the activity, in my opinion, is geared to a different age group. I think having this unique water feature in our town is another attraction that makes Gimli a destination, as well as providing an additional youth summer employment opportunity. I think it’s also a great incentive for our young people to get their lifeguard certification.”
Countered Holfeuer: “We struggled already last year to have lifeguards at our aquatic centre. Now we’re going to be competing with this water park. There’s nothing I’ve seen or read in the proposal that states what the cost of going to the water park will be.”
“I think it’s a huge mistake,” he concluded. “Why would we build an aquatic centre then right away allow another water park structure even though it is at the lake — and sure it can complement things? We’re going to be struggling even more at the aquatic centre because our debt will increase.”
Coun. Peter Holfeuer votes against extension for floating water park.
Deputy mayor Petrowski said council should not be putting up roadblocks to projects that could enhance Gimli’s appeal. “I don’t think a municipality should be competing against private businesses or standing in the way of them getting a chance,” he said. “It’s a draw that will bring in a different crowd, and it’s a good thing for all the businesses. The more things there are in Gimli, the better it is for everyone. However, I don’t disagree that it may affect the bottom line of our pool.”
In the end, the vote to approve the extension carried 2-1 with Holfeuer alone in opposition.
Mayor Lynn Greenberg and Coun. Cody Magnusson did not attend last week's meeting.
FURTHER CLARIFICATIONS PROVIDED ON POOL DEFICIT, CONDITIONS
Deputy mayor Petrowski said that there are a lot of conditions attached to the proponent’s plan, among them discussions with Fisheries and Oceans, which is responsible for activities on federal waterways, and obtaining insurance for the operation.
The $100,000 aquatic pool deficit is net of gross revenues. However first-year non-capital costs for the acquisition of such things as lifejackets were expensed last year, assistant chief administrative officer Kelly Cosgrove explained during question period, suggesting those expenses will not have to be paid this year.
“There are [were] some initial start-up costs that wouldn’t be considered as capital [expenditures] due to the dollar value on them,” Cosgrove said. “But lifejackets, certain water safety gear is not considered capital just because of the monetary value of each item individually.”
Holfeuer noted, further: “The operating costs were considerably higher than what previous council had anticipated.” He added that the consultant on the aquatic pool project had anticipated a break-even in the first year.
Petrowski said the consultant had suggested the project was going to make money in its launch year.