By EVA BAXTER
A string of delays to the reopening of Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain has local politicians pointing fingers.
Inner West Council’s heritage restoration of the Baths was meant to be completed in time for the 2020/21 summer season. The opening has been delayed well past December, with the reopening date now set dubiously to mid-March.
Mayor Darcy Byrne wrote in a post on Facebook that the Baths were left to neglect and underinvestment in the years the Greens controlled Leichhardt council and that Balmain Ward Councillors attempted to cut the budget for the upgrade in 2018.
Independent Councillor John Stamolis of Balmain Ward told the Independent that, “while the Mayor claims to own the Dawn Fraser restoration project, he doesn’t own any responsibility for the cancellation of two summer swimming seasons there.”
“In the final weeks of the Ashfield Pool, Council threw unlimited resources to make sure that it was delivered on time. In contrast, at Dawnies, we found out about the second delay four months after it should have opened,” he said.
Swimmers left in the dry
Ros Dunlop has been a swimmer at the baths since 1986, “I miss the calm and sanctuary that Dawnies used to provide. It is a pool which became essential to my mental health and wellbeing.”
She called the restoration project “irritating,” and said nothing happened for months when the pool initially closed.
“We could have swum there until any real work started, but that is how government’s work.”
In February’s council meeting, Mayor Byrne said the timeline was explicitly communicated to the community throughout the project when tabling the issue. But Ros said council has the email addresses of regular Dawnies’ swimmers, but she has received nothing in email from anyone at council.
Greens Councillor Porteous said in the meeting that the Mayor has a manner of reinventing history. She said her party has always supported the upgrade and that she finds it, “irritating that the mayor goes on his Facebook and makes claims to the contrary (…).”
In a gesture of goodwill to the community, the cost of entry to the baths will be waived for two weeks following its opening, and the swimming season extended until at least the end of May.
Council will look into events and activities that could be offered at the baths throughout the autumn and winter of 2021 in order to allow for the community to make use of the restored facility throughout the year.
Ros said some of that is satisfactory, but “I just want to be able to go back and enjoy a swim in relative solitude with a morning chat to my other pool buddies.”