Don’t get your swim trunks out just yet.
As the South Cariboo gears up for a Recreation and Culture Service referendum this June, local elected officials want to ensure residents know the plan involves more than just a pool.
While an aquatic centre is the “ultimate goal” – albeit years down the road – the proposed new service will open the door to new recreation and arts and culture amenities across the South Cariboo, said Darron Campbell, the CRD’s manager of community services.
The move comes as demand for new services in the South Cariboo continues to grow – from the Outdoor Ice Rink Society in 100 Mile to pitches for a new skate park, basketball court, lacrosse box and upgraded rodeo grounds.
“This referendum is really based on growing the assets and building new infrastructure,” Campbell told the South Cariboo Joint Committee Monday. “This is designed to take that next step.”
The referendum aims to create a new South Cariboo Recreation and Culture taxation service that would include Cariboo Regional District Electoral Areas G (108 Mile Ranch-Lac La Hache), H (Forest Grove-Canim Lake) and L (Lone Butte-Interlakes), as well as the District of 100 Mile House.
The boundary currently encompasses 100 Mile House and ends at 108 Mile Ranch, Forest Grove and Lone Butte and includes services such as the South Cariboo Rec Centre, the curling rink and beaches at 108 Mile Ranch.
The new service would include a taxation limit of $3.75 million, which translates to about $100 per $100,000 of assessed property value, and would allow the CRD to establish a new recreational service that supports existing facilities and potentially fund new ones, such as an aquatic centre. Residents currently pay $42 per $100,000 of assessed property for recreational services, about a third of the costs in Quesnel and Williams Lake.
Director Margo Wagner, who represents Forest Grove-Canim Lake, said while a pool is a long-term focus, it’s not a forgone conclusion. Even if this referendum passes, it would take four to five years and require a separate referendum to fund it.
“The pool seems to be front and centre but even if this passes it’s not going to be an automatic yes to the pool,” she said.
Campbell acknowledged this is just the first step for a potential pool.
The district expects it would need significant grant funding along with up to $15 million in borrowing to complete the project.
“The only way an aquatic centre can happen is by creating a new service to accommodate it,” he said. “It’s not a vote for a pool, but a vote for a future pool.”
He noted the taxation for the existing area is holding steady at a one per cent increase for 2022 but warned if the proposed boundary expansion does not come into effect, that figure would likely need to be adjusted.
Maureen Pinkney, a 100 Mile District councillor, said people should be aware of the potential fallout if the referendum fails, noting those outside the current boundary who pay an annual rec pass to use the South Cariboo Memorial Arena and curling rink could see it “double or triple.” If it passes, the rec passes would be eliminated.
“If we don’t have people paying their fair share, we can’t ask others to pay more,” Pinkney said. “Why should I pay for Martin Exeter Hall when everybody else gets to use it for free?”
Other directors maintain recreation and culture services are needed to retain young professionals like doctors – many of whom have recently left the area. Coun. Dave Mingo, a realtor, said he recently sold several homes to families with young children, and there needs to be service to reflect the growing population.
But Al Richmond, director for 108 Mile Ranch-Lac La Hache, said while this is a more affordable way to provide additional recreation services, he suspects many people have already made up their minds.
“My gut tells me my seniors out here are going to turn it down flat even though we have a doctors’ crisis,” he said. “They don’t seem to correlate the need for things for young professionals to do and increased taxation.”
Wagner noted she also has yet to have received any support from those outside the current boundary in her area.
She added she’s concerned about reaching residents, especially in rural and remote areas, during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Many residents in her area don’t have Internet or only use it for emails.
Campbell said open houses will be held at the community halls and South Cariboo Rec Centre to provide in-person information. All eligible voters in Area G, H, L and 100 Mile House residents and property owners will be able to vote on the plan.