Two-tier pool fees could be repealed under North Cowichan motion

North Cowichan councillor John Ckoury is concerned about dropping enrollment numbers in Cowichan Aquatic Centre classes. - Andrew Leong/file
North Cowichan councillor John Ckoury is concerned about dropping enrollment numbers in Cowichan Aquatic Centre classes.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

A motion to end two-tier user fees at the Cowichan Aquannis Centre will be debated by North Cowichan council next month.

Councillor John Koury’s notice of motion to adopt a single-fee structure by year’s end goes to council Wednesday for discussion on Aug. 15.

His motion asks council to take the lead and work with its partners toward an affordable, single-fee structure, and work with its partners —the City of Duncan and Cowichan Tribes — “to aggressively pursue a fair funding agreement with the Cowichan Valley Regional District.”

“The pool’s an under-utilized facility. Programs are being cancelled or not being offered at all, which affects Duncan, North Cowichan and Tribes as partners in the pool,” Koury said.

“That has an adverse effect for our residents. We can’t enroll our kids into lessons because we rely on outside users.”

Taxpayers funding the $20-million pool include the city, North Cowichan and the Tribes. Those folks pay a lower rate for pool use, as do visitors living outside Cowichan.

But residents of the CVRD not paying into the pool’s operation through taxes pay the high fee.

Staff at the pool, opened in September 2008, said a North Cowichanian pays $5.50 to use the pool and work-out room. A person from, say, Cobble Hill pays $11 for the same use.

Koury called that a regressive policy that’s confused users, reduced pool revenues, and scrubbed programs while some locals may leave Cowichan to swim elsewhere, and leaders study ways to create pool equity.

“Front-line staff are dealing with the mess the politicians have created. It’s a managerial nightmare.

“It has been demonstrated consistently over time that there is a lack of political will to end the two-tier fee structure at the CVRD level, where tens of thousands of tax dollars have already been spent to study fair-funding solutions, to no avail,” his motions states.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure explained moving to a single-tier has always been the goal, but council will have to discuss the issue of what’s fair to taxpayers.

“The intention right from the start was to see the end of two-tier. This idea isn’t new.

“We put two-tier in place in a sense of fairness (to the municipalities and Tribes building and running the pool), and we committed to work toward bringing in partners and eventually getting rid of two-tier.”

During a vote in recent years, Cowichan Bay folks nixed the notion of being a pool partner.

"Any electoral area wanting to participate in a new function has to go through a public process," said Lefebure.

Meanwhile Koury wants pool subsidies reduced with more buy-in

"Typically, public facilities are heavily subsidized by 60- to 65%, and we need to get that down to a 50% subsidy — to do that we need to increase usage."

Lefebure understood.

"The CVRD has looked at regional recreation funding for years. There've been recent meetings with our CAOs (administrators) to see where the process is going."


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