Residents have reacted strongly to news this week the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River will borrow $8 million to fund a renewal of its recreation centre, with pundits torn between those demanding an expansion of the existing pool and ratepayers not keen to foot the bill. In March, the Times reported the $8m project would see tenders called for replacing the centre’s roof in May, with the existing 25m pool to be shut down for at least 12 months. With councillors voting on the loan borrowings this week — which will be advertised for public comment for a month — Shire chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown disclosed the borrowings were not previously included in this financial year’s budget and the project was initially expected to cost $12m. “The initial $12m project budget included in the (Shire’s) Long-Term Financial Plan was forecast to be funded by $8m of borrowings with a further $4m to be funded by grants,” Ms Addison-Brown told the Times. “This grant funding would have been required for upgrade works. “No suitable grant funding opportunities have arisen, and as such the project has been scaled back to $8m, being the cost to renew rather than upgrade the current building which has deteriorated and reached end of life.” Ahead of this week’s council decision, the Shire released a statement explaining the project would see a simplified skillion roof for the entire structure, accessibility features, a new cafe, a timber-look deck and outdoor play space, new toilets, seating, and public art, and refurbishment of existing change rooms to deliver “a contemporary and functional centre that serves community members well into the future”. The statement also talked up energy-efficiency improvements as part of the project, but confirmed the pool would be closed for a year, and basketball court users would be affected by the gym and group fitness relocating to one of the indoor courts. Childcare services would shift to the Youth Precinct’s Scout Hall. Readers online reacted swiftly to the news, with numerous calls for the 25m pool to be extended to 50m during the build. At the other end, Times readers feared potential cost overruns in the project given the Shire’s history with the main street and Margaret River Heart redevelopments. The pool was expected to close at the end of the July for construction to start in August. Ms Addison-Brown estimated a 12-month closure “due to the current market conditions” and acknowledged the news would be “bittersweet” for users.