AFTER 39 years looking after the Maclean Swimming Pool, John and Robyn Clarke are out on their ears.
The couple returned home from a holiday on Wednesday to find the Clarence Valley Council had approved the tender of a rival pool operator from Glenreagh the night before.
To cap it off, the phone call from The Daily Examiner was the first inkling they had their bid for the pool contract was unsuccessful.
Mrs Clarke said she was surprised, disappointed and angry at the decision of the council.
"It was the first time we'd ever had to tender for the contract," Mrs Clarke said.
"I thought we'd put together a pretty good tender. To hear we didn't get it, now I'm in a bit of shock."
She said the pool had become their life and they were worried they would struggle to find another job.
"We've never been unemployed. I don't even know what we have to do with Centrelink and things like that," she said.
"This contract was for five years, with a five-year option. Five years would have seen us to retirement age."
She said the lack of loyalty council showed to such a long-term contractor was frustrating.
"It just seems to be the way things go these days," she said.
At Tuesday night's meeting, Cr Jim Simmons was the lone voice voting against the decision.
He said while there was quite a difference in the tender amounts, there did not seem to have been much communication between council officers and the tenderers.
"I know the parties are out of the area at the moment," he said.
"But they have done a very good job over very many years and won many awards for the way they have operated.
"The winning tender is reasonably low. I just hope they can carry out the work in a similar manner."
Cr Margaret McKenna said the successful tenderer had experience dealing with the council and had put in a bid significantly lower than their rivals.
Mayor Richie Williamson said the council owed a vote of thanks to the Clarkes for their outstanding work in maintaining a valuable community facility for a lifetime.
The winning tender bid of $93,500 came from Valley Pool Services Pty Ltd. The third tender came from RYDJ Management Group Pty Ltd, which manages the Yamba Heated Pool.
Their bid also takes in paying for electricity and pool chemicals, for which council paid $19,805.39 and $9953 as at June 5, 2014.
The council report showed the Clarkes' retainer last year was $100,071. The contractors retained 75% of pool entry fees - most pools in the Valley retain 50% of this fee - as well as proceeds from the kiosk and pool activities.
The Clarkes also own the waterslide at the pool. There are clauses in the tender document to allow for the new contractors to buy the slide.