Change of plans for PoCo pool?

City may have to keep old gender-separated change rooms

The Fraser Health Authority may force Port Coquitlam to change its plans to provide storage space and meeting rooms for community user groups such as the Port Coquitlam Marlins swim club at Centennial Pool.

Rehabilitation of the outdoor pool just northeast of Shaughnessy Street and Lougheed Highway began in March. The work includes building new universal change rooms and upgrading the pool’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

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A report to the city’s budget committee last month said the current work is being done while still allowing access to the pool. It will remain open until Labour Day. After that, a new concrete deck and gutter system will be installed, and also sand blasting and painting the lap pool.

The current permit from Fraser Health, while allowing for the new universal change rooms, might put a crimp in the city’s plan to get rid of the old gender-separated change rooms. The city wants to repurpose that building to accommodate storage and meeting rooms for user groups, including the Marlins. The plan is to also have gender-separated washrooms that can be accessed from the outside by users of the adjacent Aggie Park instead of them having to use a portable toilet behind the backstop.

Centennial pool 2
The new building and grounds being on the west side of Centennial Pool in Port Coquitlam. - Grant Granger

Port Coquitlam recreation manager Glenn Mitzel said the 1972 provincial health act contains a guideline requiring gender-separate change rooms. Fraser Health’s permit requires the universal change rooms to ‘complement’ the old ones PoCo wants to get rid of.

The city wants that condition waived because other Lower Mainland facilities have gone in the direction of universal washrooms including ones in South Surrey and North Delta which fall under Fraser Health’s jurisdiction.

“We don’t think there’s an issue. What we intended to do is essentially become leaders across the province with the application,” said Mitzel. “We wanted a family change area where there would be accessibility for everyone so everyone would be welcome.”

Mitzel said gender neutrality is becoming more accepted and is evolving. The universal change rooms and washrooms would have private compartments for changing, individual toilet stalls and private showers. “There’s complete privacy,” said Mitzel.

Those are being permitted by Fraser Health, but if the authority requires the city to retain the gender-separated change rooms the plans will have to be drastically modified. Mitzel said the change rooms, in addition to needing upgrading to code, would be smaller than they currently are. Plans for the meeting rooms would likely be abandoned, and the planned-for storage space shrunk. He said currently storage is a hodgepodge on the pool deck, in temporary closets or in crates.

“It is a tiny space [currently]. Everything’s crammed in there pretty tight. It’s not ideal, we make it work,” said Mitzel. “Fraser Health is receptive to it and reviewing it, but it’s going to take some time to get there.”

Spokesperson Tasleem Juma said Fraser Health is supportive of universal or gender-neutral change rooms.

"Our role is to ensure facilities follow the BC Guidelines for Pool Design and we are currently working with the City of Port Coquitlam and other stakeholders to do this," said Juma in an email to The Tri-City News.

The current renovations have also hit a couple of snags forcing the city’s finance committee to do some number shuffling. The pool’s mechanical equipment unexpectedly needed to be replaced with the $225,000 cost absorbed within the project’s budget, said a report to the committee, which noted the changes will minimize future maintenance costs.

Fraser Health also determined the pool’s water supply and return lines were “vastly undersized” putting the flow rate significantly below current health code requirements. That meant the piping had to be excavated and replaced, and a surge tank installed for an additional cost of approximately $200,000.

To pay for it, the finance committee approved adding $200,000 to the budget using money from the pool’s $250,000 contingency fund that is part of the city’s annual budget. The report said the rehabilitation project will significantly minimize the need for the fund in future annual budgets and will be eliminated.

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