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Non-residents will pay more to use recreation facilities

May 18, 2010

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If you want to play then you have got to pay.

Penticton council voted 4-3 to establish a two-tiered recreation fee structure that will charge non-Penticton residents more money to use city facilities.

The new fee structure will be limited to the Penticton Community Centre along with its pool and fitness room, McLaren Arena and the Cleland Community Theatre.

The decision comes after years of trying to get regional elected officials from Penticton’s surrounding areas, including Naramata, Kaleden, Upper Carmi, Red Wing Developments, Okanagan Falls and Skaha Estates, to chip in money for facilities their residents use.

“(Penticton) currently provides significant parks and recreation services with tax support from the city residents,” recreation manager Dave Lieskovsky explained to council. “All residents of the region use the facilities and recent statistics indicate that 23 per cent of those registered for recreation programs are not residents of Penticton.”

“This generally indicates that Penticton residents are subsidizing the construction and operation of recreation facilities for residents of the region.”

Penticton’s annual net cost to provide the three facilities, said Lieskovsky, was $1.4 million in 2009.

Lieskovsky said that at a recent meeting with regional representatives, the officials indicated that they had no interest in working out a system that would see those communities chip in money for the facilities depending on how many of their residents use them.

“I was taken a little bit aback,” said Coun. Judy Sentes, who was at the meeting. “Not only were they quite adamant that they were not interested in cost sharing, they actually endorsed a two-tiered system.”

Councillors Dan Albas, Andrew Jakubeit and Mike Pearce all voted against the two-tiered system for its regional divisiveness, potentially complicated policing scheme and possible negative impact on sports tourism.

Pearce was also concerned that the extra costs to children living outside Penticton’s borders would segregate and perhaps deprive them of use of the facilities.

“If we are going to look for more revenue, and I always applaud more revenue, then the revenue should come from all users equally,” said Pearce, before blasting the regional representatives for not contributing money.

“I share the dismay with the regional districts and the surrounding areas because who will end up suffering as a result of this will be the families that live in the surrounding areas,” said Coun. Garry Litke, criticizing the regional representatives’ argument that because only a portion of their citizens use Penticton’s facilities, such as the pool, they shouldn’t have to chip in money to run them.

“If we extend that kind of logic that would mean that if you don’t have children in school, you shouldn’t have to pay school taxes. Or if I don’t skate then I shouldn’t have to pay my share of the taxes for the arenas,” continued Litke.

“I guess it’s going to take for this to become an election issue in those areas because when their citizens start to realize that their free ride with Penticton is over and that we are expecting them to pay their fair share of the operating costs of the facilities ... maybe they will think about the kinds of regional directors they elect.”

Staff will now work on the details of the new fee structure including pricing before returning to council for approval.

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