Meet the Mayor
February 11, 2015
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about the activity taking place at the Rec Centre. In response I received a well written and thoughtful letter from one who finds the cost of using the facility unaffordable. I would not be surprised if there are others who share this concern and I appreciate receiving this insight. I will respond to the best of my ability.
Rec Centre funding and cost recovery is not a simple matter and I don’t profess to understand all its complexities. Nor is it a given that the activities promoted by the Centre should be free. In reality, I don’t think anyone believes that services come at no cost. One way or another, we pay for them – in user fees, through taxation, or a combination of both. The questions we have to understand as elected officials: how and how much will the users pay?
Let’s consider a number of scenarios. Minor hockey and curling, for example, set their own fees for participation. Their membership fees, however, include the Rec-Centre charge for the ice usage.
Drop in fees for the gym and pool, month or year pass fees, and all other participation charges are set by the Civic Properties Commission which has the delegated authority to oversee the day-to-day management of the facility and balance the budget.
Making the management of the facility even more complex is Chetwynd’s cooperative relationship with the Peace River Regional District, the legal owner of the facility. Civic Properties Commission membership is shared by the Regional District and the District of Chetwynd.
This being so, all questions of policy (which include fees policy) belong to the Commission and are debated and approved, or not, by the Commission. Day-to-day operations are governed by the policies set by the Commission.
If the Commission decided that a no-fee environment would best serve the needs of the majority of area residents which, includes residents of Area E on this side of the Pine River as well as those who live within the District of Chetwynd, the Commission would have to find ways to make up the deficit which in 2014 would have been 24.93% of the operating costs, a total of $611,840.71. Two options, a major reduction in services or a significant increase in property tax rates, seem to be the most obvious solutions. Neither of these options is palatable. One, for example, might close the pool and the other …
The Rec Centre management has worked hard to achieve a fiscal balance between user fees and taxation support that seems to work for many, and for these the facility is an essential part of their daily or weekly routine. It would please me greatly if this magnificent facility could be made to be part of every family’s routine as well. The problem requires serious and creative thought and I have asked Administration to look into it. In the meantime, this is the only promise I can make.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor