Rec services undiminished; pool planning panned
Despite speculation to the contrary, recreation services in the city will not be cut back to address a $375,000 budget shortfall.
When Celgar declined to pay its $3.6 million tax bill, the City of Castlegar, in turn, told the RDCK (Regional District of Central Kootenay) that it would not be remitting the regional district’s portion of Celgar’s taxes, amounting to $375,000, either.
The city contended its role was only one of collector – that the money was owed the RDCK by Celgar – and since Celgar didn’t pay, there was nothing for the city to remit to the RDCK.
The regional district, on the other hand, said the $375,000 was owed by the city, regardless which taxpayers did, or did not, square up their bills with the city – and the shortfall would thus have to be taken from services provided to Castlegar, the most significant of which is recreation.
Although the issue of who is, ultimately, responsible for the bill has not yet been resolved, city councillor and recreation commission member Russ Hearne said they’re not going to be making up for the missing funds by cutting back services or laying off recreation staff.
“We’ll look to our discretionary spending first, and cut back there,” he said, adding the rec budget also has reserves to draw from, at least in the short term.
This may confuse some residents who have gone to the Complex only to discover the pool and gym are currently closed.
“(The closures) are actually proof we’re proceeding with business-as-usual – they’ve been planned for months and months,” Hearne said. “The pool was closed (on Monday) until Sept. 18 so we can drain it and repaint the entire pool area, while the gym is closed for a week so we can add new equipment and repaint.
“Obviously, if we were looking at significant budget cuts, we wouldn’t be doing this major maintenance shut down, since these improvements cost money.”
Meanwhile, he said, the city and regional district continue to discuss the issue with the provincial government in hopes of developing a speedy resolution. Hearne said any option will have to be discussed and voted on at a council meeting, but he’s made some decisions himself on the matter.
“If the provincial government orders us to pay the bill, I’ll vote in favour of doing so,” he said.
In related news, Hearne’s also taking some heat over what appears to be poor communication between recreation departments in Trail, Nelson and Castlegar – rather than stagger their annual maintenance closures, all three are currently shut down.
The Nelson pool will re-open Sept. 8, while the Trail pool is slated to be back in business Sept. 13 – meaning there’s no public facility open in the entire tri-city area for the next couple of weeks in which locals can go for an indoor dip (although there are still privately-owned indoor pools like those in the Sandman Hotel and the Super 8).
“We should have collaborated – a phone call to Trail wouldn’t have hurt,” he said, adding there is already significant co-operation between the three cities. “We’re absolutely collaborating more and more … like with the Leisure Guide, which we used to do in-house. Now we do a mass printing including all three communities, so it’s a better product and costs us less money.”