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Pontiac swimming pool project gets new life

by Sophie Kuijper Dickson
Fort Coulonge
May 2, 2024
The Piscine Pontiac Pool committee says a more than decade-old dream of building a swimming pool in the Pontiac is a few steps closer to becoming a reality.
The news came at the non-profit group’s annual general meeting at the municipal hall in Fort Coulonge on Thursday evening.
The pool committee presented new architectural and engineering designs for the facility and financing information, the results of work the non-profit group has been doing behind the scenes for over a year.
Former Otter Lake mayor and MRC Pontiac pro-warden Kim Cartier-Villeneuve is president of the nine-member volunteer committee spearheading this project.
The committee shared the latest plans for the facility’s design, drafted by architect Robert Magne who also designed Gatineau’s Olympic pool and Montreal’s Bell Centre

The pool, to be built almost entirely out of wood, will be located in Fort Coulonge, on the two-acre lot on Proudfoot Road next to the town’s arena, which the non-profit bought from the town for $1 in 2018.
The current iteration of the facility proposal includes two swimming pools; one, a 25-metre four-lane pool and the other, a physiotherapy pool kept at a warmer temperature, both accessible by ramp.
The committee budgets the pool will cost $10.6 million to build.
On Thursday evening, Cartier-Villeneuve announced the project had qualified for a $900,000 grant from the province’s ministry of forestry because the facility would use wood as its primary construction material.
She explained $175,000 of this money would become available to them now, and the remaining $725,000 would be unlocked once the project received other critical funding it needs to be able to go forward – namely the $8 million grant it has applied for from a provincial recreational facility development grant, the Programme d’aide financière aux infrastructures récréatives et sportives (PAFIRSPA).
She said the group expects to hear on whether it has received this grant in September.
If this funding is granted, $2.6 million will still need to be found. Cartier-Villeneuve told THE EQUITY about $1.4 million of this remainder will be brought in through other grants the committee has or plans to apply for, leaving $1.2 million to be raised by the community.
The construction plans were created with a $180,000 FARR grant received from the MRC three years ago, and the engineering plans with $225,000 of FRR4 funding the committee received last year.
Cartier-Villeneuve said if the $8 million gets approved in September, construction would start in 2025 and would take about a year to build.
The pool committee applied for a provincial grant in 2019, seeking roughly $7.6 million out of the project’s previous total cost estimate of $11.4 million. The province took nearly a year to get back to the pool committee only to inform them that while the project was a strong candidate, the funding had not been approved.
Cartier-Villeneuve, then a member of the committee, said she believes there was very little money available in the province’s grant pot, and the committee was asking for a lot of it, and believes the project’s chances of receiving the money are greater this time around.
Cartier-Villeneuve said the committee has received letters from local 50+ clubs, recreation associations, healthcare organizatiosn and schools of the region all expressing support for the project.
Pontiac director for the Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) Nicole Boucher-Larivière wrote a letter in support of the project that was submitted with funding applications in the winter of 2023.
“We want people to work in prevention as opposed to us having to heal them once they’re sick so the pool project brings hope of maybe a healthier lifestyle for some of the population,” Boucher-Larivière told THE EQUITY.
She said she believes a public swimming pool in the Pontiac would improve healthcare in the region both because it would support healthy lifestyles of people already living here and help attract new healthcare workers to the region, which could improve healthcare services offered.
Aside from Cartier-Villeneuve, the committees members are vice-president Craig Tripp, secretary Jane Kline, treasurer Mariette Philippe, and administrators Christine Francoeur (non-voting member and mayor of Fort Coulonge), Louise Laroche, Denis Rossignol from the French school service centre, Lorianne Bertrand from the Western Quebec school board, and Sylvia Smith.
A long time dream
Efforts to bring an indoor swimming pool to the Pontiac have been underway for over a decade.
A 2010 study requested by the pool committee of the time tapped Campbell’s Bay, Shawville or Fort Coulonge as the ideal sites for the municipal pool.
In 2017, when MRC Pontiac warden Jane Toller had yet to enter office as warden, she took on the pool project, proposing it be built in Fort Coulonge.
At the time, Toller, who owned the Spruceholme Inn and the Pontiac Conference Centre in Fort Coulonge, said the previous attempt to bring a municipal swimming pool to the Pontiac was derailed by arguments over where the pool should go.
Last month, THE EQUITY reached out to the general email address for the pool committee and was directed to Warden Toller as the best person to answer questions about the project.
Toller explained that while she removed herself as volunteer president of the non-profit group during her first term as warden, she remains an active volunteer with the project, but not a member of the committee.
“The reason I know so much is I like to attend their meetings. I listen and give advice,” Toller said. “I’m a great supporter of this.”
Toller said the decision to build the proposed pool in Fort Coulonge was based on three pieces of information.
The first, she said, is that the municipality is centrally located in the Pontiac region.
“One thing they discovered is that on Google Maps, the mid-way point if you go from Allumette Island to Bristol is Fort Coulonge,” Toller said.
The second is that when combined with the neighbouring municipality of Mansfield and Pontefract, the location hosts the largest population in the region.
The third reason, Toller said, is that Fort Coulonge is the poorest municipality in MRC Pontiac and so the most in need of a facility like a pool that would support greater economic development.
Cartier-Villeneuve echoed all three points.
“Everybody would probably love to have it in their municipality but we have to do it according to statistics,” she said last week.

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