Residents review recreation plans

Martin Exeter Hall, soccer fields destinies discussed

A public meeting at the 108 Community Hall on April 11 brought out about 30 residents to discuss the plan to expand the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) South Cariboo Recreation function.

CRD Area G director Al Richmond began with a presentation, and then answered questions supported by District of 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall, CRD directors Margo Wagner (Area H) and Bruce Rattray (Area L) and CRD community services manager Darron Campbell.

It was the third of four community meetings preceding a referendum and bylaw changes, providing enough public support for the plan is shown, Richmond explained.

It would initially see the Martin Exeter Hall Complex and 100 Mile soccer fields, potentially used by 11,000 residents outside the municipality, be brought under the CRD’s recreation function umbrella.

This would alleviate the entire burden now shouldered by about 1,600 taxpayers in 100 Mile House.

While the properties would remain municipal property, the operation would then be a shared function of all taxpayers within the current recreation boundaries, who already pay for South Cariboo Rec. Centre, curling rink and ball field operations.

The majority in attendance indicated support for the plan, many of whom commented these are important, even crucial features to maintain and preserve in the community.

Concerns were raised by some on whether other art facilities are likely to request inclusion later, what future tax hits might arise, and why more taxpayers should “bail out” the municipality for “getting into a bad position” by taking on the historic old Martin Exeter Hall buildings.

Said Richmond: “What we’re talking about here is not 100 Mile; we’re talking about providing recreation and arts and culture in the South Cariboo.”

Without further support, he explained, these facilities may well be lost to the community as they further age and the maintenance becomes unmanageable for the smaller tax base.

The hall offers a venue for plays, concerts, other entertainment, choir and piano recitals, and is the envy of bigger cities in the region, Richmond added.

He noted people from other towns often travel to 100 Mile House to take in a concert, play or soccer tournament.

 

Cost impacts

Campsall said a “no vote” is telling the municipality these facilities are no longer wanted or needed.

The mayor brought applause when he said “to lose those facilities would be an atrocity to this community.”

How can we make it work for the betterment of our community – that’s why we’re here today.

The municipality does not want to give up these facilities because we believe they are a huge draw to this community and they are also very important to the people in this community.”

Richmond added the CRD has a renovation quote for the hall building, as well as a good handle on the costs for running the hall and the special maintenance required at the fields because the district has firm figures on them.

The related annual property tax increase would be $20 per $100,000 of assessed value for those living within the current recreational boundary.

A resident asked for the breakdown of the costs, and the question was fielded by the community services manager.

Campbell said the tax increase is based on a $275,000 annual project cost; $200,000 to renovate and maintain the hall and $75,000 to maintain the soccer fields.

He suggested folks review the budget on the CRD website at www.cariboord.bc.ca to see costs broken down further, the tax boundaries and other details.

Although the hall renovations are closer to $500,000, he noted those would be spread over several years.

Wagner said this involves “much less money” than a rebuild if the facilities fall into an irreparable state, which likely “nobody would ever” find the money to do.

If further renovations are deemed necessary to the complex or other facilities in future, Richmond added grant funding would be sought rather than any incurred debt.

If we have to borrow money over a longer period that five years … we have to come back to taxpayers [by referendum].”

He noted those costs drop back down as the debt is paid off, such as was recently done for the 100 Mile House Branch Library construction loans.

Noting another benefit to adding the hall and soccer fields to the CRD recreation function, Campsall pointed out the people who live in the recreational area will have a vote on those facilities.