The announcement this week that the waterslides need major maintenance work before they are safe to be used by the public, and may not reopen unless a community group or individual steps up with the necessary funds, was a surprise to many people. Once again, council is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place - the demands on our financial resources far exceed our current tax levels, and increasing those tax levels to pay for everything that everybody wants, would place too heavy a tax burden on city residents.
It's starting to seem almost like the movie Groundhog Day - different facility; same story, unfortunately.
While I know that the waterslides are a fun and affordable day in the water for people, especially those who don't have a cottage at the lake (that would be most of us), it's not one of our more affordable facilities, since it's only used for less than three months of the year, and the user revenue isn't enough to cover the costs of having it open, staffed, and maintained. And having it an outdoor facility means that the maintenance costs are higher - there's a reason why there are only two outdoor waterslides in Saskatchewan.
Part of the problem is that council wasn't made aware of the magnitude of the situation until this year - despite what may be alleged by anonymous posters on various websites, we were not informed of the potential safety issues until this year.
One way of preventing this situation from recurring with all our facilities, might be to have an annual report from each facility on what kind of shape it's in, what kind of regular or recurring maintenance is required to keep it functioning, and what the cost would be. We don't get anything like this at present, and I think it would be extremely helpful.
It's kind of like with your car or house - there are things that should be done on a regular basis, and you need to be aware of what these things are and what the cost is going to be so that you can put it into your budget. Even with major expenditures like a new roof or a furnace, knowing the approximate lifespan of these things gives you the chance to build up savings to cover the cost, before it becomes an emergency.
The sad reality is that the waterslides may never reopen. I think that for the investment required, we would be far better off to look into the costs of building a facility that can be used year-round. The challenge will be figuring out ahead of time, not just how much the facility will cost to build, but how much it will cost to operate and maintain. I know that this sort of thing isn't nearly as exciting, but it would prevent such unpleasant surprises in the future. Just like the costs of fuel and maintenance should be considered before you buy a car, and you wouldn't think of buying a car that you could only drive for a few months of the year, we need to think of the whole picture before we invest in another facility.
"Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance." - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.