Resident argues against aquatic centre

Pool proposal 'too costly' for taxpayers to shoulder

A local resident says efforts by local governments to obtain taxpayers’ opinion on an aquatic centre would be better spent on projects to attract new revenue.

Larry Badke says he owns two properties within the South Cariboo Recreation boundary that would be affected by any increases.

“I think it’s a ridiculous amount of tax to be placed on property owners.”

The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) has indicated it will increase property taxes by $135 per $100,000 of the assessed property value, and is currently conducting telephone surveys to gauge the appetite of affected residents for a referendum.

Noting the current proposal would leave him with about a $650 total annual hit, Badke says this “extreme” level of increase should not be considered in an area that’s “economically depressed.”

“The CRD and the District of 100 Mile House have brought this to the [public forum] – the South Cariboo Aquatic Society [SCAS] could not have done this on their own – and they’ve presented this at a time when we are a mess in this area as far as the economy goes.

“The [local politicians] could be directing a little more of their time and efforts into trying to promote this area with industry and investors … to get some job creation here.”

Badke adds he does not believe a $15-million pool complex is going to attract investors or buyers.

“They’re going to be looking at reasonable property prices, reasonable taxes and security of their investment.

“It isn’t just about a pool…. I have no problem paying a reasonable amount of tax toward recreation.”

Williams Lake has a pool, yet lost 321 residents between 2001 and 2011, Badke says.

“Pool or no pool, people in the workforce don’t move to, or remain in, a community without employment opportunities.

“I believe it’s a deterrent, it’s going to have a negative affect on the real estate market … [being] faced with a 20-25 per cent tax increase.”

However, SCAS spokesperson Lori Fry says calling the $15.1-million building cost “excessive” is a matter of opinion.

“In today’s society, that is actually a fairly small number … with the long-term health benefits …  you are going to save in other departments.”

Fry explains she will support the majority decision, but personally believes low-impact aquatic exercise is the “most beneficial” activity for building and retaining health, especially for an aging population.

“How can you be against that?

“Yes, it’s an expensive endeavour; we don’t deny that. Everything in society costs money, and this would be a long-term investment.”

The current estimate is based on a maximum capital cost without factoring in the anticipated grants, donations and other funding sources, she adds.

“I do respect [Badke’s] opinion. By all means, it is valuable input and it is a democratic society.

“We’re all trying to contribute to this community and keeping it strong and, therefore, you do, sometimes, have to make some investments and there are always going to be some risks.”

She explains local realtors have told her the lack of aquatic recreation negatively affects attracting new residents.

“Based on this province’s cost of living and costs of real estate, 100 Mile still looks pretty darn appealing, even with that kind of increase.”

However, Badke says building costs may actually end up higher, and the feasibility study done for the aquatic centre projects the revenue would cover 33 per cent of its operational costs.

“The balance is going to be left on the shoulders of the taxpayer.

“People should be doing research on their own to find out what this is all about, what these costs are and how it could possibly affect them.”