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Additional funding sought for Powell River Recreation Complex

City wants qathet Regional District contribution to be expanded in 2024
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COST SHARING: The five-year agreement with qathet Regional District for funding operating costs at Powell River Recreation Complex is expiring at the end of the year and City of Powell River is looking for an expanded contribution from the three electoral districts that contribute to the operation of the facility.

City of Powell River will attempt to secure additional funds from qathet Regional District (qRD) sources to help fund Powell River Recreation Complex.

At the city’s November 14 committee of the whole meeting, acting director of parks, recreation and culture Jamie Bretzlaff presented four options regarding renewal recreation contribution agreements with qRD and Tla’amin Nation.

Bretzlaff said the parties are nearing the end of a five-year contribution agreements. He said the agreements established cost-sharing terms for the operation of Powell River Recreation Complex, and only apply toward operating costs, not capital costs.

“We believe the current contribution formula used in the agreements do not recognize the fulsome use of the recreation complex,” said Bretzlaff. “While very helpful, the current contributions can be considered inequitable. The city currently contributes significantly above its population representation, as well as its estimated usage distribution.

“After reviewing the options to renew these agreements, ultimately, we are recommending that council direct staff to request the qRD increase the 2024 contribution to the maximum amount that does not require inspector of municipalities approval. This would result in an approximately $61,000 increase for 2024.”

Bretzlaff said it was also recommended that staff be directed to request a status quo approach with Tla’amin for 2024 at the current level of approximately $30,000. He said the recommendation includes negotiating revised contribution levels with both partners, beginning in 2025.

Councillors' comments

City councillor Cindy Elliott said if the city knew who was using the recreation centre, that might help.

“A service agreement is coming up for renewal and we should be asking for a better share of costs contributed by those folks who are benefitting from the recreation centre,” said Elliott. “The city is bearing 92 per cent of the costs, so we are subsiding the centre by quite a bit for all the users, and that’s not fair.”

Bretzlaff said when patrons come to the recreation complex, for some admissions, the staff asks specific information on where recreation complex patrons live. He said there’s roughly 50 per cent of people attending who are not asked where they are from.

“Where we do ask them, it’s whether they are in the city or outside,” said Bretzlaff.

Councillor Trina Isakson said the population outside of city boundaries is about 30 per cent of the total regional population and the estimated usage of the recreation complex is 40 per cent. She asked if that is correct and Bretzlaff indicated it is.

“I now understand why you are focusing on population as opposed to estimated usage because it is skewed,” said Isakson. “When you look at the hard numbers, when you see just over $200,000 contributed outside the city as compared to $2.5 million contributed by the city, it’s a sweet deal for people who don’t live inside city boundaries.”

Councillor George Doubt said being a representative of city residents on the qRD board, he wanted to outline that the people who pay in the regional district for the recreation service are the residents of electoral districts A, B and C. He said any changes that would require of vote of the people would be from those three electoral districts.

Doubt asked if staff had talked to qRD about the annual maximum. Bretzlaff said there had been some conversations about what that number would be. He said the regional district is currently contributing around $178,000 per year for the recreation complex and the new assessment would be around $61,000, for an approximate new figure of approximately $240,000 per year.

Councillor Rob Southcott said the vast majority of recreation facilities in the province are regional.

“We are in a small minority facing the situation that we are,” said Southcott.

He added that reality has changed vastly from the 1970s, when the recreation complex was built, and the paper mill was paying a significant proportion of city taxation.

“This city is fiscally stressed and the recreation complex is highly inequitable in terms of who is paying for the use of it,” said Southcott.

He made a motion to direct staff to request the regional district increases the 2024 contribution to be the maximum amount that does not require inspector of municipalities approval, and concurrently request a status quo approach with Tla’amin for 2023, while negotiating revised contribution levels beginning in 2025, and that it be advanced in as timely way as possible.

The motion carried unanimously.

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