A referendum to approve borrowing $20 million to renovate the Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre’s pool was voted down on June 19. (Observer file photo)

“Back to the drawing board” – CRD Director disappointed in Quesnel pool referendum turnout

Area 'A' Director and former Quesnel mayor Mary Sjostrom says COVID-19 played a part in low turnout

  • Jun. 25, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Mary Sjostrom was disappointed with the turnout of the Quesnel and District Rec Centre referendum.

Only 1,942 people voted in the referendum, with 51.5 per cent voting against the city and CRD borrowing $20 million to renovate the pool area at the rec centre.

READ MORE: Cariboo Regional District, Quesnel residents shoot down pool renovations in referendum

“We had considerably more for the arena (referendum),” the Cariboo Regional District Area A Director said. “I know we had challenges with COVID. Would it have been different if we’d been later? Maybe, but nevertheless, we have to deal with what we had there and what the people said.”

Sjostrom added the tight margins mean the voting public was split on the project’s merits.

Quesnel and District Pool Referendum results.

“We have to get back to the drawing table and better understand what some of the objections were and what we heard on the project and move forward accordingly,” she said.

Pandemic restrictions meant city staff were less accessible to people. The CRD and city ran two Facebook Live sessions for the public to watch. They budgeted $30,000 for advertising the referendum, even placing ads on YouTube.

“We weren’t able to get out in the community and have those open houses, I think in some respects that was missing,” Sjostrom said. “The information wasn’t clear, at least in people’s minds. It’s always that way. When you’re close to a project and you understand it, you figure everyone else does. I think in this case there was a lot of confusion. Not to tell them how to vote, but to explain to make sure they understood what we were asking for.”

LETTER: Four reasons to vote against Quesnel pool referendum

Sjostrom suggested once COVID-19 rules subside, putting open houses together targeting people who voted no in the referendum to better hear their concerns, but acknowledged she didn’t have the answers.

“Ultimately it will be a joint planning decision,” she said. “Hopefully moving forward we can figure out what the next steps are.”

The next North Cariboo Joint Advisory Committee meeting has not been scheduled.

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