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Pemberton looking at new recreational governance

Concerns persist in valley about fate of recreational facilities



The Village of Pemberton is looking into options for governance of recreation in the valley as concerns persist about the possible closure of an aging community centre.

At a committee of the whole meeting on March 15, Village council accepted a report from Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Sailland that looked at various options for administering recreational facilities in the community.

The report came in response to a request earlier this year to show how the Village would approach delivery of recreation services, as well as a request for comment on the potential closure of Pemberton Meadows Community Centre, which could be shut down due to rising costs.

The closure of the Meadows Community Centre creates concern that groups currently meeting and playing there won't have anywhere else go to. Alternatives considered by the Village have included gymnasiums such as those at Signal Hill Community School and Pemberton Secondary School, but both facilities have limited hours and availability.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said that council had "significant discussion" around a new governance model and ultimately decided to ask staff to come back with examples of how recreation is administered in other communities.

"We supported essentially the staff recommendation to refer the report to (the Pemberton Valley Utilities and Services committee), to have staff come back to us with some examples of other communities that have these sort of society-based-administered recreation services," he said. "(It was) so we could better understand the examples, where they work, what their challenges are and learn from other people's experiences."

The report to council presented a long series of options for recreational governance in the valley. One option was making recreation a full municipal service that would be funded regionally and incorporate volunteer group assistance, but operate as a department of the Village of Pemberton.

Recreational amenities are currently funded jointly by Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the Village of Pemberton. Area C residents are to kick in $514,759 and the Village $410,241 this year for a total of $925,000 to operate the Pemberton Community Centre, the Meadows Community Centre and the Youth Centre.

This funding model may change if the provincial government approves the Village's application for a boundary expansion.

Other options included service provided through a registered non-profit society that gets an operational subsidy from the regional district and the Village. Service through a non-profit society and supplemented by corporate sponsorships and fundraising was also considered.

A full corporate model with service being contracted out to a third party was also put forth as an option in the report but it didn't get much uptake from the mayor or councilors.

The report ultimately recommended that council consider the non-profit society model, and that council forward the report to both a Recreational Advisory Committee and the Pemberton Valley Utilities and Services committee.

Sturdy, agreeing with staff's recommendation, wants to see a non-profit society model where the Village provides infrastructure and an operating budget and lets a board of directors run the service.

"The model I used as an example was like the Library Board, where the library has use of the library facility as a community centre," he said. "We provide the library board with a requisition number, I think about $230,000 a year, and that society hires the librarian and all the staff.

"We need to look at how we can incorporate all the different aspects of recreation in the valley, including trails and swimming."

Susie Gimse, a councillor with the Village of Pemberton and a director representing Area C on the board of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, said the City of White Rock governs its recreation and that the model there might be something to look at.

"I think currently it's being administered off the side of someone's desk and we can do a better job," Gimse said of the status quo managing recreation. "When you look at all the services that the regional district delivers, this is one that consumes a fair amount of time and we don't really have staff allocated to commit the time required to provide the oversight on all aspects of recreation."