Opinion

Our take: Negotiation the right way to set proper pool fees

And so the controversial two-tier payment system at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre creeps towards its conclusion.

And, predictably, it’s not with the clamour of righteous debate around a board table, or the political fireworks of an election campaign. No, it’s happening quietly and practically, through negotiated settlement.

Cowichan Tribes set the bar for co-operation way back when the pool first opened, agreeing to contribute to the operating costs.  And, slowly, one by one, the rest of the region has followed suit, signing on for sums they believe to be an appropriate reflection of how much their residents use the pool.

The two-tier system is in place because of two truths that have had trouble co-existing: 1) residents outside of Duncan and North Cowichan are going to use the pool; 2) they aren’t going to use it nearly enough to justify being a full partner.

The solution, of course, is finding a middle ground — an out-of-tax-base contribution that subsidizes out-of-tax-base users to a degree that seems fair to those who are paying pool taxes.

And the best way to find that is through negotiation.

Lake Cowichan taxpayers are the latest to sign on — paying about $2 a household to save those who use the pool about $6 a visit. Town councillors believe it is a fair deal. But they only signed on for one year so they can back out if their constituents vociferously disagree.

It mirrors a system that worked to get residents of south Cowichan aboard, and it likely will work for the last two remaining holdouts in west Cowichan.

The outlying communities do use the pool and aren’t opposed to paying their fair share.

It’s just about finding that share.

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