There was a full gallery at the regular meeting of Kimberley City Council on the evening of Monday, February 27, and the majority of the crowd was there for one reason only — a motion to terminate the joint use agreement with School District No. 6.
The joint use agreement, which was signed in 2001, allows reciprocal use of each other’s facilities.
The problem, according to a staff report to Council, is that at present the agreement is far more beneficial to the school district than the city.
“The schools frequently book ice time at the two arenas and bring classes to the pool for swimming lessons. The City does not provide supervised programming for the public and therefore is unable to benefit from the agreement,” the report says.
While various groups in the city do use school gyms, they are not city-sponsored groups but rather local non-profits.
However, if the agreement is cancelled, both parties would incur user fees for use of facilities.
This has some local parents concerned that should the agreement be terminated, programs such as school swimming and swimming, as well as the sports school, would be in jeopardy.
The first suggestion at Council Monday was to defer the matter to a future Committee of the Whole meeting, so Council could discuss it more fully.
Coun. Kent Goodwin said that although it was apparent the city wasn’t really using the agreement, an agreement of some sort was required because of the concerns by parents that kids could be affected.
Coun. Albert Hoglund, who was on Council when the original deal was signed, said he would have voted against the motion had it gone forward. He said that while the groups using the school gyms are not city-sponsored, they are still not being charged. He said if the agreement was terminated, those groups may be charged for the use of gyms.
He pointed out that in 2001, the council felt that there was no problem letting schools use the arenas as it was not a prime part of the day when other users such as minor hockey would need the ice. However, he acknowledged that things had changed with a new requirement that the city have a ticketed employee in the arena any time it was being used.
“When the Aquatic Centre was built, it was my understanding that it would not be part of the agreement,” he said. “But I don’t think that ever happened. We used to meet regularly with the school board. It may not hurt to go back to that.”
Coun. Sandra Roberts said her concern was the requirement for staff supervision and insurance. That should be reciprocal, she said.
Coun. Bev Middlebrook said obviously the matter needed more discussion as she had heard from people worried about the issue.
Mayor Don McCormick said that it was obvious to him that the agreement was outdated.
“There are terms in there that don’t work,” he said. “The agreement says it was never supposed to be for free. The school board does pay for an extra lifeguard but it doesn’t cover costs. This is SD6 using facilities as part of their programming. SD 6 uses them for free. Minor hockey, figure skating and other users pay. But I agree we need to give staff more time to collect more data.”
“This is not about excluding students,” said Coun, Darryl Oakley. “We are a small town and we are lucky to have these facilities, but we have to manage the fiscal part of this. I would hate for this to affect those using the facilities of SD6.”
The staff report says that the schools use city arenas about 14.5 hours a month. If they were charged the same rate as minor hockey — $108.26 per hour — that would be $1500 per month. The school board also uses the Aquatic Centre for a value of $1440 per month. All together that’s $24,000 per year.