Shown are the Vanderhoof Bears playing the Prince George Bantam Midget House team at the Vanderhoof arena. (Aman Parhar photo)

User groups frustrated with the district over their lack of communication

Two residents in the community are frustrated with the district’s staff over their lack of transparency for not giving proper explanations to requests made by user groups.

Theresa Hodson Philips, minor hockey coach said she had made a request to appear to council to do some non-structural changes to the arena’s dressing room so as to accommodate an equipment shed.

“Then kids who can’t play hockey, who can’t afford it, can come to the rink and get a bag of equipment for free,” she said.

“We wanted to change the dressing room and make it more functional,” she said. “We wanted to take the benches out that aren’t being used, take the sink and toilet out, which are non-functional. They have sat there for many years not being used and we thought it would make more space.”

She said they fundraised to do all the changes, with no cost to the district.

Philips said they planned to put in Costco shelving which is removable when required. And local companies are ready to do the sanitation of the used gear.

“We are not looking to profit off this. It is to get more kids into the sport.”

After they put their proposal together, Philips said they went to Smithers to understand how their equipment shed works as they have the same program.

With recent mill curtailments and shut-downs, she said, this year would be great to offer the program where kids can come and get free gear.

After submitting their request to the district, Philips said she got a respond after a week that their request would not go to council as it is an operational decision.

“Two weeks after that I heard nothing, so I sent an email asking when I could expect an offer as we need to do some prep work, as we have to gather all the gear and get it organized. Practices are starting soon, and their response was — when a decision is make, they will let me know via email. Two-weeks after that I get an email saying the request was denied and I could get in touch if I had further questions.”

“I replied with ofcourse we would want an explanation as to what their reasoning’s are. I am sure they could have a good one, but I haven’t gotten a response yet,” Philips said.

She said other ice users groups are facing the same situation with district staff and are not getting any explanations for why their requests are being denied.

The equipment shed will be built with or without district support, Philips said. “It is just convenient running it at the arena. That is where it should be and where it makes the most sense.”

The Express has gotten in touch with district staff for a response.

Meanwhile, Steve Little, minor hockey coach had presented to council on Aug 12 asking for a change in policy to accommodate minor hockey tournaments at the arena during public skating hours.

District policy states that those public skating hours will not be moved until mayor and council decide to update the policy.

Little said that over the years, weekend hours for ice have been reduced through user groups and the addition of a Saturday evening public skating schedule.

In the past, groups booking the ice were allowed to have the ice from 6 am until 8 pm Saturday and again from 6 am until 4:15 pm on Sunday. That window, he said, has been reduced to 8 am to 6:30 pm on Saturday and 6 am to 4:45 pm on Sunday.

“This change has made it extremely difficult to schedule tournament with our teams playing late into Saturday night and even then having to bump Friday and Saturday evening groups.”

He said they are looking for some flexibility in policy as they have four weekends in a year where they run tournaments. These tournaments bring in people who benefit the local economy as well.

Last year, the Pee Wee tournament held in Vanderhoof had some teams reaching home at 1:30 am. Little said the Burns Lake team has said they would not return this year if that same time schedule is followed.

“It is too late. All we are looking for is for the ability to pre-schedule and allow our tournament to go through without the break in public skating,” he said.

After Little’s presentation, council did not give staff any direction to change policy. They instead asked Little to present at the 2019 Ice Users meeting.

Little said he was confused with what changes could be brought by presenting to the Ice Users Meeting as it is a change in policy and only mayor and council can do that.

Lori Egli, chief administrative officer for the district said no direction was provided by council to staff other than requesting Little to present at the Ice Users Meeting.

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