The “$27 million disaster”

Hornsby Aquatic Centre is facing a string of complaints from disgruntled users about the parlous state of its facilities.

The complaints – at a time when Hornsby Council has circulated a survey to Centre users about what needs upgrading and promising ‘substantial improvements’ – include an unmanned gym, pools “not safe for senior use” and a cafe that’s regularly closed.

Judy McFadden’s 86 year-old husband Max wanted to use the dedicated walking lane in the inside 25m pool but, with a damaged shoulder, felt he couldn’t use it for fear of being injured by children in the same lane.

“When there are swimming lessons on, this lane disappears altogether,” she said. “There needs to be a dedicated walking lane for walkers only that’s available all day and that kids can’t jump in and out of. When you’re old or disabled or injured, it’s frightening going into the pool wondering if you’re going to get accidentally hurt.”

The 85 year-old Mount Colah resident also cites the pool’s temperature being lower than the advertised 31 degrees celsius, rust on the pool outlets near the ramp and showers’ dramatically fluctuating water temperatures “scalding one minute and freezing the next” among the raft of reasons she’s defected to another pool, along with many others.

“It’s a $27 million disaster – we waited four years for the pool to be built and we had great expectations – but it’s very disappointing.”

It’s not just the seniors who are frightened – 32 year-old Liz Ward goes three times a week for back pain. “I’m usually in the walking lane but get upset when kids are bombing into that particular lane or playing games and not being told off. I have complained before, to no avail,” she said.

Visits to the Aquatic Centre’s gym have left Thornleigh resident Susan Hughes disappointed at the lack of one on one help in the gym. “The gym has no one-on-one personal trainer to guide me through a safe fitness/exercise plan except a group class for an hour on Wednesdays, which isn’t enough especially for working people or those with regular commitments.”

Susan, 63, has had two hip replacements and severe rheumatoid arthritis, and is worried lack of trained supervision could mean she hurts herself using the wrong equipment. “I can’t use the gym because I’m scared I’m going to damage my hip replacements which cost me $100,000.

“Like many mature aged people and young people with disabilities or injuries, we need coaching to ensure we safely use the gym equipment.”

Hughes called it “disability discrimination” the Centre’s lack of provision for over 55s needing hydrotherapy, and disabled swimming. “How can Council make us wait all these years for our pool and then have no dedicated indoor pool for seniors?  The only exercise I can get is in a warm gentle pool, but at our community pool I get splashed, bombed and bumped into by kids.”

Sue Buckle, 62, said the lack of supervision in the gym put her off: “Being older in the gym when you exercise, there are risks to your health. If you have a heart attack or stroke, you could be dead on the floor for ages and no-one would know.”

Jeeyun Willis who takes her son to the pool for lessons, worries about the Centre’s cleanliness. “There’s mould, slime and grime everywhere – on the steps, in the bathroom and on the lane dividers.

“Months ago I noticed poo splattered on the window next to the steps of the lesson pool and I advised the lifeguards. They ‘cleaned’ it up using a mop but the streak marks are still there. The whole place needs a good scrub.”

Another common complaint is the regular closure of the cafe. Nanny Bronwyn Walker said it’s often closed at lunchtime. “Today we went and it was closed at 12.40. It’s inconvenient to walk tired children to a local café for lunch. Surely Council can provide basic food and drink. It’s the ‘expected deal’ with families after a swim.”  

A Council spokesman said it would let residents know what improvements it planned after studying the survey results. Cameras were being installed in the gym for monitoring by reception staff , and “a fitness leader is available on request if anybody needs help with gym equipment.”

There are, he said, dedicated walking lanes “ideal for seniors” at specific times, while the rust staining from use of incompatible chemicals is being remedied, as is the drop in water temperatures with a water pump upgrade. Regarding cafe issues, he said Council has put out to tender for new cafe management.

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