While it might be a good problem to have, a healthy demand for the Town of Pincher Creek’s gym facility on St. John Street has created a headache for the town’s administration.

With several user groups in attendance, town CAO Angie Lucas told the mayor and councillors at a committee-of-the-whole meeting Dec. 6 that having the council chambers next to the gym space was creating “a bit of a clash” between its users and town staff.

“It is not an easy thing to do. It’s going to be a little bit complicated and there will have to be some compromises from all of us,” said Lucas in describing a potential solution to the problem.

“We know the town office building is not providing appropriate space for meetings with business owners, potential developers and investors.”

At the centre of the debate is the fact that the town’s council chambers, where many of these meetings take place, and the gym are separated only by a very thin wall and two sets of doors.

“I have been in this meeting room with people who have come from outside of the town, who have travelled some way — they’re investors, they’re land developers — and they have made comments,”  added the CAO.

“When we’ve been in this room, the noise coming from the gym wasn’t very professional —the banging of doors, et cetera.”

And, with neither room properly soundproofed, therein lies the problem, or one of several, it appears.

Town office is old

While not singling out any one user group, Mayor Don Anderberg called the problem a physical issue in the way the town office was built.

With a brimming gallery, Anderberg assured user group members that the plan was not necessarily the “discontinuation” of the gym’s use. 

“The issue being, this is an old building. When renovations were made here, probably that back wall could have been insulated better,” he acknowledged.

In a conciliatory tone, the mayor said he too has had meetings in the council chambers when, for example, the taekwondo club has been in the gym. With some knowledge of the sport, he admitted it can become loud.

“I know it can be disruptive, at times, but it’s not your problem,” he added, addressing the gallery.

More issues than just noise

In her report to the committee of the whole, CAO Lucas stated that over the last 10 months, several other concerns besides noise have been brought to her attention by town staff.

“The gym users have access to the male and female washrooms in the west wing, which are the washrooms that staff in the town office have for their use,” she said.

“The situation with staff coming into contact with the public in the west wing hallway and in the washrooms does not work well for maintaining health and safety for staff and has been commented on by staff more frequently, especially if the washrooms are left in an unclean state by the public during office hours.”

The three-page report also listed other concerns directly affecting, in particular, on-call staff. Multiple times per year, it said, staff were required to be in the town office after hours because someone forgot to pick up their key before the end of the day, locked themselves out of the gym, couldn’t figure out how to lock the doors, or complained about the temperature inside the gymnasium.

The CAO contended each call is costing the town about $150 in overtime.

One user group responds to concerns

Many of the user groups in attendance were hearing some of the concerns for the first time, including the Pincher Creek Family Centre.

“We have been running our Gymtastics program here Thursday mornings for 17 years. We have never had a noise complaint,” the centre’s director, Jacqui Bruns, told Shootin’ the Breeze outside of council chambers.

“The fact that the staff are complaining about using the bathrooms with other user groups … they have one locked washroom in their immediate area and they have two locked washrooms in the bathroom, so that is not a valid concern.”

Between 20 and 30 families, Bruns said, take advantage of the indoor portion of the Gymtastics program between September and June and, in her words, they’ve never had a problem with anyone wrecking anything.

Also upsetting, but more so, to the Family Centre director, is a series of recent unannounced closures.

“In 17 years, we might have been cancelled twice due to flu clinics who were using the gym, which we fully understand. In the last three months, we’ve been cancelled twice for meetings,” she said. “As we showed up for the [council] meeting today, we see a sign on the door, that we have not been let know, that our gym is not available on the 14th.” 

With no real alternative, Bruns said it left them scrambling.

What’s next, or what now?

For now, it will be business as usual for user groups wanting the gym — with Mayor Anderberg committing to an “open and frank” discussion on the issue in the weeks ahead. Given the importance of the gym to the community, the mayor isn’t willing to put a time stamp on it, saying it will take as long as it needs to.

Among the short-term possibilities being considered is better soundproofing of the gym. However, just how much that might cost will likely be considered seperately, with talks on the 2024 budget now ended.

By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 13, 2023 at 16:40

This item reprinted with permission from   Shootin' the Breeze   Pincher Creek, Alberta

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