City ponders scrapping two-tiered leisure system

Cranbrook is once again looking into changing the current leisure services fee structure.

Cranbrook is once again looking into changing the current leisure services fee structure.

At the moment, residents of Cranbrook pay a discounted price, while all non-residents pay the full price to use the leisure centre.

At last week’s regular meeting, Council was presented with five options put together by city staff. The options ranged from everything staying the same to scrapping the two-tiered system in favour of funding support from the Regional District of East Kootenay. The city estimates it collects somewhere between $32,000 and $50,000 from non-residents. Eliminating the two-tiered system would also cause the city to potentially lose those funds, and so a deal with the regional district could balance that out.

In the options, staff also suggests broadening the scope of what services RDEK residents would be paying into, comparing it to the fire services or library agreements.

Mayor Wayne Stetski right away made a motion to move ahead with option five, which is to enter into discussions with the RDEK.

Coun. Angus Davis agreed with the mayor, saying that he’d gone through the options the day before and supported number five as well.

Coun. Bob Whetham said the city has faced this situation a number of times and found the requests for participation in capital expenditures have not been successful.

“But the reality is we have ongoing operational costs,” Whetham said, adding that Cranbrook taxpayers are not only paying the user fee each time they go to the pool, but also are paying through taxes. “I think it’s only reasonable that we go out to the regional district with that kind of mission and look for a working relationship that covers all of our recreational activities.”

Coun. Sharon Cross circled number five as well after looking through the options.

“I think this approach of engaging and having some dialogue with our neighbours and friends will go a long way in perhaps remedying some past resentments around this issue,” Cross said.

Coun. Diana Scott said she was pleasantly surprised to hear number five was the one other councillors were agreeing on.

“I think that is the way to go,” Scott said. “I think we need to talk with our neighbours and exhaust all the possibilities of how we can work together on this and do our negotiations that way. It’s a give and take.”

Scott said the city has a good relationship with the RDEK.

“What we tried in the past hasn’t worked. Sometimes it has come close, but I think number five is definitely the way to go,” she said.

Coun. Denise Pallesen wasn’t as optimistic.

“I don’t have a problem talking to the regional district, but I think we have to remember that the last few words in number one say ‘may be deemed fairer by our residents,’” Pallesen said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be a win-win unless we get some input and some dollars from the regional district.”

Mayor Stetski said the problem with moving away from the two-tiered system is the city would need to make up the lost funding through the RDEK.

He said the district thought ratepayers would be much more interested in paying into the services near that level than the amounts of past requests from the city, the last of which was over $1 million.

“We’ll come up, hopefully, with a program that works for everyone and no longer have a two-tiered system,” Stetski said.

Coun. Scott added that she thought most people want the two-tiered system gone. She said that number five takes a different approach than in past years and so may have different results. If it doesn’t then they still have the other four options.

Warner said he agreed on five as well.

Option one would keep the status quo. Option two would eliminate the two-tiered system and charge the resident fee, but staff cautions that this may end up causing residents to have to pay higher rates. Option three would keep a two-tiered system, but only charge the higher rate to non-residents who use the facilities frequently; other non-residents would pay the resident fee. Option four would provide the resident discount to all users for a one-year trial, allowing for the city to measure if the new users would offset the lost revenues from eliminating the fee. Council moved forward on option five.