To contain costs, town council is holding an aquatic facility referendum in conjunction with a by-election on February 16, 2013.
Combining both polls will save the town about $8,000 to $10,000, the average cost of running an election, said Tom Clement, deputy administrator for the Town of Vanderhoof.
“It costs the same to run a referendum as it does to run an election, so why not put them together,” he said.
The referendum will seek permission from the electorate to borrow about $4 million over a 30-year period to build a $12-million indoor aquatic facility in Vanderhoof, with remaining funds potentially coming from provincial and federal governments, local businesses or industries and fundraising efforts, said Councillor Steve Little.
“Whatever we can get,” said Little, chair of the Vanderhoof Pool Committee.
The coinciding by-election has been organized to replace Councillor Louise Levy, who is moving to Prince George and officially resigns on Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Due to the referendum, town council is anticipating a higher voter turnout than last November, when the Vanderhoof Municipal Election was determined by less than 30 per cent of the total number of registered voters in the community, about 2,960, said Clement.
This summer, council decided to assume the costs and responsibilities of owning and operating the aquatic facility rather than share them with surrounding municipalities.
“Since we are the major contributor, it made sense that we actually own it,” said Little.
Councillor Little is adamant that an aquatic facility would serve as a regional asset, promoting health, recreation and economic development in Vanderhoof, while offering stakeholders an alternative to the aquatic centre in Prince George for swimming lessons, fitness activities and even physical therapy.
“It has been 20 years since council first started trying to get a pool here. My gut feeling is Vanderhoof is ready for it and that it’s time,” Little said.
In August 2010, the pool committee retained PERC, a consulting company in Langley, B.C., to prepare a $37,000 feasibility study related to the construction and operation of an aquatic facility in Vanderhoof.
PERC reviewed everything from postage costs to staffing requirements to estimated annual revenue.
Although the study identified a need for an aquatic facility in Vanderhoof, it recommended that a regional approach would make costs more manageable.
“It is the consultant’s opinion that without a grant from senior levels of government, and without operating support from adjacent communities (Fort St. James, Fraser Lake and Electoral Area F), it would be a significant financial burden for the district to finance the construction of an indoor aquatic centre,” the report says.
“This is not to suggest that the community should not pursue an aquatic facility at this time, but it does suggest that careful consideration would be critical prior to moving forward.”
Those interested in running in the by-election can file for nomination between January 2 to 11, 2013. Candidates must be 18 years old as of election day, a resident of B.C. for at least six months prior to election day and meet the requirements of the B.C. Election Act.
To vote, electors need two pieces of identification, including a driver’s license, B.C. identification card, credit cards or utility bills. Contact the Vanderhoof Municipal Office for more information at (250) 567-4711.