After a marathon and high-tension discussion, the Regional District of Nanaimo board voted to make Electoral Area E a full participant in the District 60 swimming pool service.
The issue was decided during a recent special meeting held by the RDN board.
Area E (Nanoose Bay) will be phased into the service over a five-year period with an apportionment based on 50 per cent assessment and 50 per cent usage formula, commencing in 2022.
Directors who favoured staff recommendation to amend the Regional District of Nanaimo District 69 Swimming Pool Local Service Area Establishment Bylaw No. 899, 1993 that will now include Area E agreed it is about making it equitable for all.
Area E has not contributed any funding to the construction, maintenance and operations cost of the Ravensong Aquatic Centre, built in 1995. A loan was supported through a referendum by taxpayers from all the participating areas to pay for the project. They include the City of Parksville, Town of Qualicum Beach and Electoral Areas F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood), G (French Creek, San Pareil, Little Qualicum, Englishman River), and H (Bowser, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay).
The centre is fully paid off but a new capital investment is required to upgrade the facility to ease congestion and overcrowding.
Area E director Bob Rogers indicated not all residents in his area use the pool as there are those who prefer going to Nanaimo. He also pointed out his constituents should be given the opportunity to give their input on the issue.
“Electoral Area E has never been involved in a referendum or a borrowing authority vote with respect to establishing the service or with respect to building the pool,” said Rogers. “We have not done that properly and because of that we have not been able to speak or vote at any motions relative to District 69 pool. I fully support the value of pools in the community as a matter of basic principle and moral basis, too. I think it’s important that constituents and the elected do have an opportunity to vote through a referendum process on whether or not to establish a service.”
Rogers made an unsuccessful motion to have the swimming pool bylaw services for District 69 amended to include Area E as a participant with apportionment based on a usage formula. He also asked that Area E be included as participant in the Southern Community Recreation Local Service Area Bylaw No. 1059, 1996 and also to amend the District 68 Sports Field and Recreation Services Agreement for Area E to contribute to the City of Nanaimo’s aquatic facilities by agreement based on a usage formula.
Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne said Area E got off without paying a cent for more than 25 years to the pool service and it has become an ongoing issue that other participating areas wanted rectified.
“Area E is part of Oceanside,” said Mayne. “It is not partially part of Nanaimo and not partially part of Oceanside. It is part of Oceanside and contributes to all the other sports facilities in the area, as if they’re a part of that. So why is this all of sudden, this one is different?”
Area H director Stuart McLean indicated the issue is about “equity.”
“This is not about the past of what happened there,” said McLean. “This is not about the future of new pools. This is about the here and now. The situation is inequitable.”
Starting next year, Electoral Area E taxpayers will begin contributing to the pool service.