The pool committee held open houses in Vanderhoof and Cluculz Lake last week to discuss the value of building a $12-million aquatic facility here.
The meetings were also organized to provide information to the community ahead of the pool referendum on Feb. 16, 2013, when electors will decide whether the municipality can borrow $4-million to put towards building the aquatic facility.
“Today we’ve just got the information,” said Councillor Steve Little, chair of the committee.
“We’re not here to convince you how to vote, but we think with the right information, the community will vote yes.”
Almost 130 people attended the open house at the Nechako Senior Friendship Centre in Vanderhoof, where the committee responded to questions from members of the community, many of whom shared concerns about costs.
“The crucial information, in the end, is what is it going to cost,” said Monty Holding, senior associate of Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants Ltd (PERC).
In August 2010, the pool committee retained PERC to prepare a $37,000 feasibility study related to the construction and operation of an aquatic facility in Vanderhoof.
The study, which will be made available on the pool committee’s website, Vanderhoofpool.ca, reviews in comprehensive detail the budgetary expenditures of pool facilities in communities with populations similar to Vanderhoof.
Although the study contains a wealth of information, Holding said it won’t be accessed by the majority of electors in the community, about 2,960.
“Many people won’t take the trouble to go and get the information,” he said.
“That’s the purpose of tonight.”
Erling and Alice Clemmensen, who have lived in Vanderhoof since 1964, attended the open house to understand how an aquatic facility would affect tax rates.
“We’re on a fixed income,” said Earl.
“If it’s going to change, we don’t want it to chase us out of our home.”
When Vanderhoof held a pool referendum 15 years ago, the couple enrolled in swimming lessons in Prince George with hopes that the community would vote in favor of the aquatic facility. But the referendum didn’t pass.
“We’re not going to take swimming lessons again unless this one goes through,” said Earl, a tradesmen who retired in 2001 at the age of 63.
If electors approve the $4-million loan at the referendum, the town would make principle and interest payments of approximately $275,000 per year for 30 years, explained Tom Clement, deputy administrator and director of corporate services for the District of Vanderhoof.
Earlier this month, the pool committee pointed out 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.
If a pool is built, the district would create a contingency fund to help stabilize the tax rate over the long term and prevent it from rising further, said Little.
“Our hope is that we can maintain the level after the increase,” he said.
Barb Mazereeuw attended the open house in Vanderhoof with her 15-year-old son, Lane.
Although Barb said the health benefits of the aquatic facility are innumerable, she wondered about the tax implications, even after learning that the district was on track to paying off its only existing loans next year.
“Vanderhoof already has high taxes,” she said.
“I think it’s going to be a hard sell.”
Lane, a student at Nechako Valley Secondary School, one of the only teenagers who were present at the open house, remains hopeful that an aquatic facility with a weight-training room would be built in Vanderhoof.
“I would go all the time,” he said.
Lane described a pool as a source of wellness for people of all ages that would prevent drownings and create a more active community.
“To walk down the street and go to swimming lessons, I think that would have a huge effect,” he said.
Barb agreed, citing an unacceptable number of drownings in the region.
“How can you put a price on that,” she said.
Recreation policies aare becoming more important to communities across Canada, reducing the need for health, social and justice services, said Holding.
“If you have a community full of healthier, better people, then it’s a better one all around.”
This article was edited to reflect the following correction on Dec. 10, 2012:
In an article about an open house meeting in Vanderhoof, arranged by the pool committee to inform the community about the benefits and costs of building a $12-million aquatic facility here, a factual error was made about how a $4-million loan would be repaid by the District of Vanderhoof. If the loan is approved at a referendum on Feb. 16, 2013, the town would make principle and interest payments of approximately $275,000 each year for 30 years.