Controversial facts to be publicized

As Feb. 16 pool vote looms, committee vies for disclosure

Newspaper advertisements, signage, human engagement.

The pool committee laid out strategies last week to garner support for the construction of a $12-million aquatic facility in Vanderhoof.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23, the committee established dates for open houses in Vanderhoof and Cluculz Lake on Nov. 20 and 21, respectively, to promote the project and clarify concerns about costs.

“We need everyone to bring two friends who are excited about the pool and start building this group,” said Councillor Brian Frenkel, a committee member and supporter of the aquatic facility.

Council scheduled a referendum on Feb. 16 to gain the electorate’s approval to borrow $4 million to invest in building the aquatic facility, but the committee is already looking elsewhere for the remaining $8 million.

Councillors Frenkel and Steve Little, chair of the committee, identified three major industrial employers who they would soon approach for larger contributions.

In the next few weeks, the pool committee plans to launch a new website, independent from the municipality, containing frequently asked questions, point-blank facts and the findings of a $37,000 feasibility study that the committee didn’t release publicly until late October.

The study, completed in August 2012, contains a wealth of information about two conceptual designs for an aquatic facility, including floor plans, demographics, staffing requirements and capital costs.

The study also reviews in comprehensive detail the budgetary expenditures of pool facilities in McKenzie, Revelstoke, Fernie and other communities with populations similar to Vanderhoof.

In October, the committee released a Business Case for an Aquatic Facility.

“There are only a few of us in this room who have been privy to that,” said committee member Jim Eadie.

Eadie said the committee should be completely transparent with financial figures, disclosing on paper handouts the amount of interest and principal the town would pay on the $4 million loan.

The idea was criticized by fellow committee member Paul Stewart, who recommended that it be quashed to avoid spreading misunderstanding over how the loan would be repaid.

“That’s why it’s dangerous to be putting that full business case out there,” he said.

A general consensus was reached when Eadie, Frenkel and committee member Nicole Ebert suggested that the most controversial and confusing facts about the project be listed on a document with full explanations.

“And that’s what our ethic is right away; to get some kind of understanding on the issue of payback,” said Stewart.

Stewart and Little recommended that the website include a widget enabling stakeholders to calculate the amount of additional taxes they would pay if a pool were built in Vanderhoof.

Administrative officials at the municipal office confirmed on Thursday, Oct. 25, that construction of an aquatic facility would cause tax rates to rise $612 for major industries, $452.28 for light industries, $86.81 for homeowners and $263.04 for businesses for every $100,000 of assessments.

This article has been edited to reflect the following correction on Dec. 3, 2012:

An article on controversies associated with the construction of an aquatic facility in Vanderhoof erroneously identified the PERC document that Jim Eadie, a member of the pool committee, was referring to while speaking about the issue of transparency. Eadie was speaking about the Business Case for an Aquatic Facility, which wasn’t immediately made public by the pool committee.