With an already tight budget, members of Pemberton council have serious reservations regarding plans to build a public recreation centre in Area C to serve the Gates Lake area.
Under the current agreement, the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District share recreation costs, with money from Area C residents funding recreation in Pemberton and vice-versa. Since funding is based on population, Pemberton could be on the hook for roughly 48 per cent of annual operation costs of the proposed rec centre, which are estimated at roughly $100,000 per year based on projected user fees. Further, Pemberton's portion of operational costs is expected to go up as its population increases.
Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who represents the Village of Pemberton on the Pemberton Valley Utilities and Services Committee (PVUS), encouraged people to attend an open house on the centre on July 24 to learn more and provide their feedback.
"I'm on record as being concerned with the operation costs of the structure and the capital reserve funds (for the centre) as well," said Sturdy. "The point being, we're already short of operational funds (in Pemberton). We're at our max taxation on that particular service, so without some amendment going back to the public (for more funding) or asking a minister for a special dispensation, or a significant change in the assessment role for next year, it is going to make the situation more acute."
Ted Craddock was also concerned. "If we raise (property) taxes one per cent we gain about $15,000," he said. "That's a three per cent increase for recreation, just to pay for that service up there... If we don't account for it ahead of time, we could be in the same position we are with the community centre with no reserves and in five years we'll be in the same situation (with capital costs and debt)."
Councillor Mike Richman is also concerned with the process. "We're so far into this process and we're only now just seeing the first draft of the operational budget, which for me is incredible," he said. "And we only have so much information to work with. We don't know how many kids are there, what services they're going to provide. I think the whole process has been skewed.
"I'd like to know the demographics of the area before we go in there."
As well, he was concerned that the plan does not currently include First Nations in the region, which could have been brought in as a partner.
The next PVUS meeting is today, July 19, followed by a meeting of the Recreation Advisory Committee. The open house on the Gates Lake concept is at N'Quatqua hall, starting at 6 p.m. on July 24. There will be time for visitors to look at the drawings for the building, which includes a 5,000-square foot room and basement storage, and will cost the SLRD roughly $1.7 million. A presentation will follow at 7 p.m. The Recreation Advisory Committee is hosting a public meeting at 8 p.m.