Community swimming pools in Cocoyea and Couva that have not been in operation for one year and a year and a half respectively, are expected to be back in operation soon.
The Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, chaired by house speaker Brigid Annisette-George, grilled a team from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, headed by permanent secretary Farouk Hosein, on the maintenance of the seven community swimming pools around the country that are funded by the government.
The meeting was held in the committee room of the Parliament complex, Cabildo Building, on Wednesday.
The committee, comprising Senator Wade Mark, MP Ancil Antoine and Amrita Deonarine were told that five of the seven pools in Siparia, Laventille, Diego Martin, La Horquetta and Sangre Grande are functional for recreational swimming by the communities and the Learn to Swim programme. But not the ones in Cocoyea and Couva.
In Cocoyea where there is a netball court too, electrical and plumbing upgrades are taking place.
Hosein said there is still more electrical work to be completed.
He explained that the pump room was flooded so all the pumps had to be replaced resulting in some of the electrical having to be suppressed. That will now be done in-house.
The project cost was approximately $611,000. But work is expected to be completed by March.
A report on the underground flooding was requested from the ministry.
With a security bill of $58,000. per month, Hosein said it should be reduced since MTS has taken over the contract.
In Couva, also with a basketball court, ongoing work is being done there too.
Ronson Hackshaw, physical educational and sport officer II, said the other five pools are all functional, but not to capacity as there is need for staffing.
Updating the committee on the pool at Diego Martin, Patrice Charles, director, physical education and sport, said the complex there includes a tennis court and a basketball court.
He said there is no upgrade to that pool itself, but there is need for a security fencing around the complex.
Mark asked for a list of all companies contracted for the various services at each of the pools, a breakdown on costs and the amount of people impacted by the use of the pools.
Armand Jackson, senior planning officer, said in 2017, 54,000 people used the facility, 40,000 in 2018 and 38,000 in 2019, both for recreational use and the Learn to Swim programme.
Asked if there exists in the ministry, a register of all service providers for maintenance works, Hosein said no, since the sports company has that information.
He added, the ministry doesn’t have any oversight over the facilities, the sport company does.
Not good enough for Mark, he suggested the ministry get its own register.
Hosein acknowledged the suggestion and promise to comply.
Questioned on what measures are being taken to generate finance to assist with the running of the pools, the committee was told the Learn to Swim programme is offered to schools for a minuscule fee of $100 per school per term, but consideration is being given to revise the fees.
The team that also included Marcia London-McKellar, deputy permanent secretary, Leah Malchan-Douglas, accounting executive I and Charmaine Yearwood, director, human resource services were also told to build a stronger relationship with the communities to give its people more autonomy in the operating of the facilities, and for more people to make use of them.
Hosein said there is a new Comprehensive Maintenance Plan (CMT) which will be used as a guideline for a more efficient way of handling operations and issues.
He said plans are also afoot to begin construction of swimming pools in Maloney and Morvant by international standards, and a request has been made for a pool in D’Abadie/O’Meara.
Operating cost of the pools vary around $650,000.
Hosein said the ministry recognises the issue of maintenance of the swimming pools is a very important one, and that the ministry is committed to the public in having them fully operational.