After nearly three hours of discussion, the District 69 Swimming Pool Select Committee was still not able to come up with the ‘best’ option to make Nanoose Bay residents start paying taxes for the Ravensong Aquatic Centre services.
The committee held a workshop type meeting on May 17 at the Parksville council chambers. A number of ideas were floated around and led to lengthy debate. There was a suggestion of putting off making any decisions until 2023, giving Electoral Area E (Nanoose Bay) a free pass. But majority of the committee disagreed as all the other particpating areas are already being taxed for the services.
“If they’re not participating why should the rest of us?” Parksville Mayor and director Ed Mayne asked. “We may need to be looking at what we can do to make this equitable. You can’t say you’re in, you’re out, you’re in on this. Either it works or it doesn’t work.”
Mayne indicated the goal is to find a solution now before their term is over.
Nanoose Bay residents have not been involved in the construction, maintenance and capital investments of the Ravensong Aquatic Centre since 1995. The pool has already been paid for but will soon undergo a $20-million upgrade that will be conducted in phases.
The RDN board recently gave third reading to a bylaw amendment to make Area E a full participant in the pool service that would require residents to pay taxes based on 50 per cent usage and 50 per cent on property assessments.
Area E (Nanoose Bay) director Bob Rogers argued his constituents were not afforded the opportunity to provide input and were not consulted. He wants the issue voted on through a referendum in the coming municipal elections in October.
“It’s not right, ” said Leanne Salter, Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) director. “Area E has to have the opportunity to have a referendum and to make a decision, the one that they never did get to make.”
Rogers strongly stressed the usage fee pay option is a fair model considering that only four per cent of Area E residents use the facility as most prefer going to the Nanaimo pool.
Area G (Englishman River, San Pareil, French Creek, Little Qualicum, Dashwood) director Lehann Wallace said it’s their job to find an equitable and reasonably priced services to the region.
“The reason we’re here today is because it does need to change,” said Wallace. “So for it not to change, I think it is not responsible.”
Committee chair Tyler Brown asked if it is worth asking the electorate in Area E via a referendum if they want to participate in the aquatic service.
Qualicum Beach director Brian Wiese indicated ‘yes’ but added the assent voting must include all the other electoral areas in District 69.
“It’s not just about (Area) E,” said Wiese. “So if I go to the Town of Qualicum Beach and say ‘we want you to pay more taxes’ and do a referendum asking the question. Guess what they’re going to say? ‘No.’ It’s just a no-brainer.”
Wiese said Qualicum Beach residents pay for other services such as parks including those in Nanoose Bay.
“Why are we paying that?” Wiese asked. “Because we’re a family. We get our services because we work together to keep things reasonable. RCMP is a good one for Oceanside. Parksville and Qualicum Beach pay the brunt of the bill for Oceanside. Is that fair? I don’t think it is.”
Wiese said the RDN is not going to work without the participation of everyone.
“We all need to get in,” said Wiese. “And whatever that price at the end of the day, that’s what we pay. And it makes it equitable and it makes it fair. No one can argue with that.”
Wallace feels the RDN will be wasting money on a referendum when they already know what the answer is going to be.
Area H director Stuart McLean cited his constituents pay for the services despite being a distance away from the pool and with only six per cent of residents using it. He suggested staff be directed to come up with a report that analyzes a variety of tax apportionment models for aquatic services.
“If there are more factors to include, the more equitable it becomes for everyone,” said McLean.
The committee endorsed McLean’s suggestions and agreed it will only be for information.