Following an ammonia leak at the Fernie arena that resulted in three fatalities, the Regional District of Central Kootenay is reviewing safety procedures at its own facilities, including the Castlegar and District Community Complex's arena. (File photo)

Letter: Complex expansion – Arena more than just ice

Communities rarely stagnate - they are either in a state of growth or decay.

Communities rarely stagnate — they are either in a state of growth or decay.

How do you envision our City in the next five or 15 years? I am hopeful that most would want to see the continued growth of their community. It is with this background that I feel it is very important for all of us to consider what sort of Recreation Expansion we consider going forward. Population, economic opportunities, quality of life and infrastructure are drivers that that will influence people to come to our area to reside.

I wholly believe that the City and the taxes it collects should be used to provide the required infrastructure and continuity of our daily lives. This can be achieved through a number of means, but one important aspect is the current discussion of the Recreation Expansion plans and why this will be a positive development (Option B – full build) for all concerned.

I have had the opportunity to talk to a diverse group of vested and non-vested interests, who feel, for a variety of reasons this is not necessary. I would like to take the other side of this debate and communicate some reasons why. (Let me first say, that I am all for a reasonable amount of taxes, but more importantly is the accountability to these funds and where they are spent). If we are going to spend money (go into debt) what is the cost/reward analysis and validity as to why this spending should be considered?

In a discussion with Mayor Chernoff, one quote that resonated with me, was his comment: ” …… when I field questions from outside interests (business/families), the two most common questions asked are, what are your daycare and recreation facilities like?”

With the ability to make a difference in our community, this project offers an attractive piece to why Castlegar can be a destination of choice. Many will dismiss this since they do not use the facility, then why should they have to contribute (tax increase). But everyone does have an interest in seeing this project succeed – some directly and some indirectly. Economic (Businesses): Groups and other venues can utilize the increased space to host an event, bringing more visitors to our community/area.

Consider just one weekend of Minor Hockey that will host 24 teams (19 out of town teams and 12 requiring overnight lodging). This will generate ~$100,000 of money spend (food, lodging, shopping, etc). Two parallel sheets could support 40 teams and more local spending.

With a larger space, we could host a Trade Show/Symposium/Conference that could last up to a week, bringing several hundreds of thousands of dollars here.

Economic (indirect): with the infrastructure in place, new business will be able to locate here, which creates jobs and shopping opportunities.

Family: Those that have family members (grand-children/sons/daughters) that cannot remain in the area due to the lack of opportunity must re-locate elsewhere.

I have had many discussions with several that would like to re-locate/remain in our area, but simply cannot due to the circumstances. Economic spinoffs from increased City growth will provide more opportunities.

Services: For those that must re-locate elsewhere due to the lack of services and providers.

I am sure many would like to remain in their homes or at least in the community, so having the pieces that will allow for growth will help some stay local.

The Recreation Expansion Project is one piece of the bigger puzzle that integrates all the above points. If we have the infrastructure to attract people, our community will grow and with that comes new jobs, new businesses and more diverse opportunities and services.

Many will argue the cost is too much; please understand this is also a concern of mine. I have tried to corroborate the seemingly high cost and how that compares to similar projects. But each time we postpone, inflation and material costs will increase the price. We can see this already in the price from the last referendum and Nelson’s 2005 Expansion Project. All the communications have indicated that this would be the worst-case scenario.

Considering potential gov’t grants and other sources, the actual cost could be materially less (unfortunately, grants and possible funding are not available until approval has been given). If one considers $10 million in grants to the $32.37 million price tag, this represents a 30.8 per cent reduction in proposed increase. For a $300k valued home, this would be $155.91/year which is $13.00/month — that is two to three Starbuck coffees or two beer mugs per month.

Additionally, if one were to look at other community projects: Hazelton Rec Centre that cost $16 million, $12 million (or 75%) was funded by Federal and Provincial governments (Oct. 2016). Nelson recently (2015) had a $6.3 million aquatic project and received a $4.6 million Federal grant (73 per cent of the cost). Optimistically, what if we were able to secure 50% of the funding? Or if our community grows 20 per cent in 5 years, the added households will help decrease the amortization, allowing for a less than 25 yr payback.

If not now, when? Would you ever support a facility expansion? If Castlegar (and Area I and J) passes on this opportunity, it is my understanding that this file might not be revisited for another 10-to-20 years. A “No” could impact our community’s growth and thus impact the tax base and households further – a decaying population will bear additional costs to maintain the required tax base. Although some may disagree, I believe Castlegar and area currently have momentum, and now is the time to continue this – looking beyond the short-term. Consider this an “investment” that will have a number of spin-off rewards for the future – short, medium and long term that will benefit all community and area residents.

I am voting Option B, I hope you consider it too.

Dave Kravski

Castlegar

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