Moyne Shire Council is close to a decision on what to do with Port Fairy's beleaguered Belfast Aquatics leisure centre, as the facility's insurance policy approaches renewal.
Council chief executive officer Brett Davis said the issue would come before councillors at a future meeting, but a spokesman said it was almost certain to be the April meeting.
"Council officers have received a report into the operating model of Belfast Aquatics and is continuing to work with the committee to determine a way forward," Mr Davis said.
The report has been compiled at the council's expense by an independent expert on facilities like Belfast Aquatics, covering the full range of operations at the centre. It was finished and submitted to the council in December 2022, and since then council officers have been analysing its content and conclusions and briefing councillors on the findings.
The Standard understands one of the options would involve the council taking over responsibility for the facility.
The report itself was commissioned as a condition of the council giving the facility $91,712.30 in extra funding to cover 10 months of insurance coverage, which the centre said it couldn't pay for.
Belfast Aquatics committee chair Anne McIlroy wrote to the Moyne Shire councillors in May 2022 explaining the facility's problems and asking for the money. At the June monthly meeting the councillors voted 6-1 to pay the money, which came on top of the annual $200,000 the council provided the community-run centre.
But the councillors made the funding conditional on the Belfast Aquatics committee cooperating with a full investigation of the facility's operations.
The facility found itself in dire need in early 2022 after its previous insurer decided not to renew its existing policy. It transpired the organisation's occupational health and safety policies were not up to standard, which was a key reason for the insurance cover lapsing.
The council diverted staff resources to find emergency cover, and then spent up to $20,000 from its own coffers to pay an outside expert to rewrite Belfast Aquatics' internal policy documents. It was only after that that the facility revealed it didn't have the funds to pay for the emergency insurance cover the council had found for it.
Council community and corporate services director David Rae said at the time that the committee was "in the difficult situation of either having to wind up or finding a benefactor to pay the premium".
The community-run pool and gym has strong support from much of the Port Fairy community, with Cr Karen Foster saying in June 2022 the council should do "everything in our power" to keep it open and Cr Jordan Lockett saying the local community loved the pool, and the council had to "do everything it (could) do to keep the pool open".
Cr Jim Doukas has been critical of the amount of money the council has spent to keep the centre afloat - more than $1 million since it began - and said it would need significant capital investment to reach council standards. Cr Daniel Meade has also voiced concern that several council investigations in recent years haven't solved the facility's problems.
The council said its emergency contribution in June 2022 had provided enough funding for insurance coverage until the end of April 2023. A spokesperson said there had been no discussions so far about renewing the coverage.
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