Rumours dogging $25-mill expansion plan

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
September 22nd, 2010

City councillor Russ Hearne has been heavily involved in plans to expand and improve Castlegar recreation services, but he said he’s concerned at the degree of misinformation and inaccurate rumours that seem to be circulating in the community.

He said the $25-million project, for which a referendum will be held Nov. 6, is sparking some emotionally-charged debate, and he hopes the discussions will include the correct facts about the expansion.

“No matter which way someone votes, I think they should be voting on what’s actually in the works, and so much of what I’m hearing just isn’t true,” he said. “This is one of those times where being informed, and voting accordingly, can really make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives.”

He said he’s heard, for example, rumours that everyone’s taxes will go up by as much as $800 a year.

“The fact is, it’s going to cost about 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed value of your home – and that’s only if we borrow the entire $25 million,” he said. “The more property and business owners move into the community, the smaller each taxpayer’s portion will be, so we can expect that 80 cents to go down over time. The 80 cents is a worst-case scenario.”

In fact, he said, the improvements are an investment that will almost certainly ensure an increased tax base, thus reducing the cost of the expansion for individual residents.

“People go to communities where they see a good quality of life, so it’s not a frivolous expenditure – it’s an investment in Castlegar’s future,” he said. “The average person will only be paying about $15 more per month, so it’s not a huge amount, especially when you consider the return.”

He said the dollars and cents seem to be causing the most confusion, but there are other misapprehensions as well – such as the notion that the current swimming pool is adequate.

“Our leisure park (area at the pool) is too cold, and the reality is, children and seniors are taking their business to other communities,” he said. “In 1990, when our aquatic centre was built, it was state-of-the-art – but that was 20 years ago.

“We want to be competitive on a regional level and not lose revenue to facilities in other cities.”

Similar problems exist with the seniors and fitness areas.

“The seniors centre, when it was first built, had about 90 members – today, it has more than 290,” he explained. “The need for more space is clear.

“The fitness area, too, should be a good revenue generator for the Complex, but it’s way too small,” he added. “We have people wanting to use the facility, but there’s no room for them, and classes fill up so fast, lots of people are being left out.”

Finally, he pointed to the ice area – many people seem to be operating under the misapprehension that the entire expansion is to create a new sheet of ice, which obviously isn’t the case – but a new sheet of ice is an important element, to be sure.

“It’s not just hockey – we have figure skaters, broomball players, public skating. When the Pioneer Arena closes, that’s 950 hours of ice time we’ll lose,” he said.

At the end of the day, Hearne said he respects alternate opinions and cares less how people vote than whether that vote is based on sound information.

“There’ll be brochures available at City Hall and the Complex, and a public meeting at the Complex Oct. 2 at 10 a.m.,” he said. “Read up on it; come on out and ask questions – make sure the vote you cast is based on the facts.”

For more information, call City Hall at 250-365-7227.



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