6 December, 2022
Sink or swim for Shire pools
MAREEBA Shire Council has made a bold decision to take on the management of the Mareeba and Kuranda pools and the Dimbulah pool and caravan park after rejecting the only eligible tenderer fearing the cost would be too much for ratepayers to bear.
H20 Sport and Leisure Group has been running the three complexes since August 2021 as part of a management lease arrangement for 12 months, during which time the company was to ascertain the true costs of operating the facilities.
Council agreed to the arrangement because it had no data on the actual costs. H20 understood this was a binding agreement and would be revisited in a year’s time.
On the anniversary of the lease agreement, council put the contract back on the market, but only H20 was the only company that lodged a tender, offering to take up the contract for $760,000.
However, council then informed H2O, it wanted additional tasks undertaken by the company to remove any further council involvement in running the facilities.
Taking these into account, H2O submitted an amended tender at the value of $1,008,053.
Council considered the new tender at a special meeting last week and opted to reject the tender on the basis it could not afford the additional funds, and instead choosing to take on the management itself.
The turn of events has clearly been disappointing for H2O company director Jason Salecich, who believes the company acted in good faith.
“Even though we had what appeared to be a binding agreement in August 2021, we were advised on the anniversary of the first 12 months the pools would go back to tender,” he said.
“Despite our efforts, we were forced to tender, at which time the council significantly increased the scope of responsibility, stating they lacked resources for the roles and wanted us to carry out all roles.
“This is reflected in the increase in tender we provided but clearly this seems contradictory to the approach now, with council stating it will take on management.”
Around 18 staff are employed over the three facilities, with H20 providing the necessary training and relevant courses to get workers up to industry standards – council has since offered the current workers jobs should they choose to stay.
“We wish council all the best in what is an extremely difficult job to manage all venues especially due to the tyranny of distance, extremely short availability of staff and a specific skill set required to ensure compliance and safe management of venues,” Mr Salecich said.
H2O has been running similar complexes for many years, having just renewed their contract for the Woree Pool with Cairns Regional Council for another 10 years.
Cr Mario Milkota told last week’s meeting he had no doubt H20 had provided a high quality service, but thought the cost on ratepayers would be too much.
“Looking at the actual submission, I believe we can neither dispute or question the professionalism or the high standard of work put in by H20 Sport and Leisure Group,” he said.
“They certainly have raised the bar when it comes to delivery of service but the question is whether we, as a council, can afford to pay for this very high standard of service delivery.
“Considering the tender submitted, it is evident that council would need to increase rates substantially across the shire to pay for the operation of these aquatic facilities and caravan park.
“That is the bottom line in my way of thinking.”
Mr Salecich said while he was grateful for Cr Mlikota’s comments, he was disappointed the company was not given an opportunity to negotiate with council.
“We can’t say we are not disappointed and appreciate the kind words of Cr Mlikota but we wish to state we wanted to work towards a resolution - it appears our offer is clearly significantly above what council believes it should cost to manage all venues.
“We are very disappointed about the process considering we took it on when council was in a dire position and made assurances in regard to our long-term tenure at the facilities.”
Council has confirmed it will put out a tender to operate the three complexes in the new year.