The Liberal Party’s Ward 1 candidate Michael Begg was forced into an embarrassing backflip on Monday after casting doubt on the future of Blackheath pool at an election forum held in Katoomba.
Blackheath pool was an unexpected issue at the August 9 event hosted by the Katoomba Chamber of Commerce and Community.
Ward 1 independent councillor Janet Mays - who is not running in the election - asked the candidates if they were committed to keeping Blackheath Pool open even if ongoing maintenance costs increased or if pool equipment needed upgrading.
Mr Stock and Mr Hoare gave clear responses in support of keeping the pool open, while Mr Begg said he’d have to "give it some thought" if Blackheath Pool required extra funding.
He went further saying "the figures [for operating and maintaining the pool] don’t stack up" and Olympic-sized public swimming pools in Katoomba and Lawson were great facilities - the Katoomba Aquatic Centre being "just a 15 minute drive from Blackheath".
If Blackheath Pool were to close, Mr Begg suggested "maybe [council could] give them [Blackheath residents] free entry to Katoomba Pool".
But in a "clarifying" statement to the Gazette on Monday - received by email from the local Liberal Party’s council election campaign co-ordinator - Mr Begg took a new stance on the issue.
"I am committed to keeping Blackheath Pool open," he said in the statement.
"However I am also aware it has maintenance issues from time to time which can result in it being closed.
"If and when this occurs I believe Blackheath residents should be granted free access to Katoomba Pool."
At the meeting Mr Hoare gave his "full support" to keeping Blackheath Pool open and Mr Stock, while acknowledging its burden on council’s annual budget, said "I’d be for keeping the pool open".
In a further statement to the Gazette, Mr Stock stressed it was important candidates "clearly and directly state their positions.
"We hope his [Mr Begg’s] concerns are not supported by any of his party colleagues," Mr Stock said. "It’s imperative for the people of the Upper Mountains that the major parties come clean about their intentions for the Blackheath Memorial Park and Swimming Pool.
"This is an iconic part of Blackheath and in part a memorial to the Australian Forces of the First World War - it has to stay."
Ward 1 Labor candidate Don McGregor could not attend the KCCC meeting, but told the Gazette on Monday "of course we have to maintain it [Blackheath Pool]".
"It’s a much valued public amenity and like parks, footpaths and libraries it’s not expected to make money," he said. "Besides it cost close to $2 million to fix up (in 2004/05) and it would cost more to rip it up."