Regional District asks public to weigh in on Sportsplex funding

The public will finally have a chance to voice their opinions on the funding of the Cowichan Sportsplex, and it’ll likely happen sometime between February and May.

"It was over a year ago that the board asked us to go out and consult with the community about two funding models," explained Chief Administrative Officer Warren Jones to the CVRD’s regional services committee. "Now this is back on the table, we need some sense from the board as to the role of the staff. Do we continue to go out and inform the community about the different models?" The two current models include: equal cost sharing – where everyone pays the same – and a usage-based option whereby the areas whose residents use the facility more, pay more.

The reality is the difference is about $1 on the average tax bill.

Also, just how the regional district uses the information it gathers is still up in the air. It could be a binding or non-binding referendum question next election but time is running out for both options.

As such, most CVRD directors want the public to finally weigh in – and soon – on the years-old funding debate.

"We’ve never provided that opportunity for the public to have some input and some options," Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said. "How we move forward and how we choose to be partners or not partners should be informed by the public. The more information we have, the better decisions we should be able to make."

North Cowichan Councillor Barb Lines was ready to hear the public’s perspective on funding the Sportsplex, and on regional recreation as a whole.

"I really like the idea of funding partners determined by the public," Lines said. "It may be that our constituents are all thinking regionally while we are not. Or some of them. Or more than we think."

Area C (Cobble Hill) Director Gerry Giles noted the Sportsplex has been funded through regional grants-in-aid for upwards of six years. The grant program was not designed for continual support.

"We need to try and resolve it one way or another and not make it like [the] regional recreation [debate] which has been going on since 1985," she said. "I think there is a great opportunity in going out to the public and making a presentation and garnering whether or not there is public support."

Though authorized to last year, CVRD staff has admittedly not done much work around actual community outreach because they didn’t want to interfere with the public process occurring with regard to the Kerry Park Recreation Centre restoration/renovation community consultation plan in South Cowichan.

"Now that the direction has been decided on the Kerry Park project, this direction from the board about going to the community is still outstanding," Jones said.

Area F (Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls) Director Ian Morrison hopes to prevent the same type of confusion this time around.

Morrison explained that going out to the public now would "muddy the issues" in getting Areas F and I (Youbou/Meade Creek) into the Cowichan Aquatic Centre partnership. "I would ask if it’s possible to meet with the Aquatic Centre partners again before we go out again to talk about regional recreation," he said, adding he’s hoping to set up a meeting with the partners "within weeks, if possible."

Though not unanimous, Hutchins’s recommendation for staff to consult with the public between February and May passed.

"I appreciate the position of Dir. Morrison but I think we can honour that but still get the work done," Hutchins said.