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Green light given to recreation services to ‘construct, renovate or expand’ recreation facilities

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
January 28th, 2023

A new regional district bylaw gives the green light to recreation services to construct, renovate or expand community, recreation and leisure facilities within City of Nelson property.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) board of directors adopted the Nelson and District Community Facilities, Recreation and Leisure Services Establishment Amendment Bylaw on Jan. 19 during its regular monthly meeting, a service bylaw for all recreation programing covering the City of Nelson, Electoral Area F and defined portions of Electoral Area E — including all facilities, parks and trails.

The amendment includes facilities such as swimming pools, multi-purpose arenas and fitness areas.

“The amended bylaw prioritizes lifecycle budgeting for all RDCK facilities to ensure an asset management approach to planning for repairs, refurbishment and redevelopment,” noted an RDCK staff release on the bylaw adoption.

The allows Recreation Services to acquire all such “real property, easements, rights-of-way, licenses, rights or authorities as may be requisite or desirable for or in connection with the construction, renovation and expansion of community and recreation facilities.”

A proposed facility addition to the current roster must complete a project development process prior to a bylaw amendment coming forward for RDCK board consideration that includes:

• a feasibility study;

• community engagement;

• strategic and tactical planning; and

• utilizing asset acquisition screening tools.

Concerns over the service relating to the scope of the operations arose over five years ago, resulting in the start of the 2019 service review.

But when the review document came to the city in November (2022) for approval, it was found that the City of Nelson still paid a lion’s share of the costs of the service — 67 per cent, while Area F pays 23 per cent and Area E 10 per cent.

“It doesn’t deal with the sustainability of the service. I think it still needs to be resolved. We disclosed the increase in the funding to the services … it is probably our largest funded service for city residents,” said city manager Kevin Cormack at the time.

The city contributed an additional $184,000 per year as an additional contribution to recreation, Cormack said, as well as funding a number of other recreation facilities and fields.

Coun. Keith Page didn’t dispute how much the city was paying, but he said the review — once it was approved by the province and further adoption by the RDCK board — would give an expanded regional district population the parameters of what they would be paying into.

“Now you can build with the directors and show them the services and say that you can join this, we are going to be clear what we are providing here, what has a very defined box and that’s not something that is going to be nebulous and worrisome,” he said.

In question

Facilities and services included in the Nelson and Area Recreation facilities service:

• Civic Arena;

• Civic Centre Blue Room;

• Gyro Park;

• Lakeside Washrooms/ Paddle Rental Centre;

• Nelson and District Community Complex;

• North Shore Hall;

• Lakeside Park (Rotary Lakeside Park);

• Lakeside Park playing fields;

• Lion’s Park; and

• Queen Elizabeth Park.

The road to here

When the recreation service bylaw was established in 2003 to approve the funding of a new arena in Nelson and an upgrade of the aging aquatic centre, a referendum was based on total taxation of $1.8 million.

Nineteen years later taxation was $3.1 million — which included a reduction in debt service costs of $400,000 — equating to a budget increase of $1.7 million over time.

Inflation accounts for $850,000 of the increase and increased expenditures during this period were $950,000, a city staff report on the review noted.

“The facilities are aging and there is new cost pressure on the participants,” a city staff report on the service review (Nov., 2022) stated.

Sixty-seven per cent of the expenditures are covered by the city, with Area F handling 23 per cent and Area E taking on 10 per cent. The city also contributes an additional $184,000 per year.

Although the report acknowledged the potential expansion of the service to include other areas in the RDCK that utilize these and other recreation services, the financial sustainability of the service requires those using the recreation services contribute to the cost.

Source: The Nelson Daily, November, 2022

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