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Council debates recreation cost recovery

Recreation, and the significant costs associated with it, were debated at Town Council on June 2.

Should local government be subsidizing recreational opportunities that might only be enjoyed by less than half of the population? On the opposite spectrum, should we even use the word subsidize, perhaps using a term with a better connotation, such as investment? That was the debate that sprung up at the June 2 Town Council meeting during a pair of reports from Jordan Petrovics, manager of recreation services.

Petrovics spoke to his reports on both the arena use and rate review as well as a recreation cost recovery survey.

His report on arena rates demonstrated that Golden’s rates fell more or less in line with that of other similarly sized communities in the province, although its full ice rental rates fell on the higher end of the spectrum, with only Summerland’s $148/hour punching above Golden’s $126.30/hour for adult ice time. Still, Golden’s rates were very comparable to those of Invermere, Revelstoke and Creston, who all ranged from $110/hour to $120/hour.

Its public skating rates, that saw adults pay $4.50 and children $2.50 per session in 2014/15, are also comparable with other communities.

Altogether, the arena was rented for 1,751 hours of a possible 2,086 hours last season, an improvement from 2013/14, where less hours were rented despite more available ice time.

Coun. Bruce Fairley didn’t see the value in comparing Golden’s fees with other communities, pointing out that circumstances are often vastly different from town to town.

Coun. Fairley expressed some concern that, according to him, the arena alone costs more than the entire recreation budget of 10 years ago, and that many in Golden are choosing recreation opportunities that aren’t subsidized like the arena.

Coun. Caleb Moss disagreed with the use of the s-word, preferring to call it an investment.

“I recognize that they cost money and that they don’t generate as much as you put into it, which I suppose you could look at as a subsidy, but I always sort of look at it as an investment into a different outcome,” Coun. Moss said, while recognizing that success should continue to be based on usage rather than simple cost recovery.

Petrovics later revealed the results of a survey that was filled out anonymously by each of the six Town Councillors and Mayor Ron Oszust with regards to recreation cost recovery. Part of a much larger, ongoing project, the survey was seen as a way to get initial feedback from council across several different areas.

When asked where the strategic cost recovery project rated in terms of importance, two councillors deemed it to be very important, four said it was somewhat important while one said it was of low importance. Not a single councillor believed it was not important.

When it came to how much money should be committed to the project, however, council’s opinions were mixed. One councillor said that $100,000 + should be spent over multiple years with the support of a recreation consulting firm.

Two councillors believed that $60,000-80,000 would suffice, while three said that under $15,000 is all that should be required under a staff-driven model.

One councillor believed that more information was required before he/she could answer the question.

Also as part of the survey, Council was given the opportunity to discuss the public value of an effective recreation department.

One councillor wrote a “lack of recreational options is a detraction to individuals or families considering relocating,” while another stated that recreation “creates community for all residents, young, old, rich, poor, single families. There are numerous health benefits directly related to sports facilities, parks and trails.”