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Directors reject rural recreation cost-sharing

City approaches region about possibility of referendum

Powell River Regional District rural directors have once again declared that they are not interested in considering the idea of cost-sharing recreation services with the City of Powell River.

At a regional district committee-of-the-whole meeting on Thursday, July 21, directors voted five to two against requesting a report on the possibility of holding a referendum during the upcoming November elections to see if regional residents would be interested in contributing taxes toward recreational services in the city. The only two directors to vote for the motion, which they also made and seconded, were city directors Chris McNaughton and Debbie Dee.

The decision to once again approach the regional district stemmed from a discussion at the city’s committee-of-the-whole meeting earlier that day. Many ideas were considered over the best way to approach the regional district. Should some numbers be determined ahead of time? Should regional and city staff work together to come up with those numbers? Should they wait until after the issue has been discussed at city council? In the end, no motion was passed, nor was there any clear decision on how to broach the issue.

“The last time we brought a resolution forward we were ridiculed because it was just sort of open-ended,” said McNaughton to council. “I think we need to be very clear so that they’re responding in the resolution to any questions they might have.”

At the regional meeting, McNaughton argued that the issue can be looked at in terms of parks and recreation facilities in the city being an asset for the entire region. Plus, for the past 35 years regional residents have not had to support an asset which cost city taxpayers $2.25 million in 2010 alone. Also, while the region does not contribute to city parks, the city does contribute tax dollars to regional parks.

“While on the one hand there has been a history of an ability to support these facilities and services, that’s gone now,” said McNaughton to the rural directors. “We’re faced with a new reality as a community, as a region. We still benefit from having these services.”

Support was scarce among regional directors, some of whom expressed that the issue has come up before and that they have made it clear that regional residents are not interested in supporting what they consider to be a city asset.

“We’ve discussed it on numerous occasions, not only with this board, with previous boards,” said Dave Murphy, Area D director. “We’re belabouring this thing again and again and again, using up valuable time and valuable monies to pursue something that you already know...where it’s going to go.”

At the council meeting later that evening councillor Dave Formosa questioned McNaughton and Dee’s decision to approach the regional board about the issue before council had a chance to pass a formal resolution to do so.

“I have to say that I’m a little disappointed,” said Formosa. “I don’t even know if it’s worth putting together a resolution now and going back because we already know the answer and it’s just going to be more of the same.”

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