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Scrubbing two-tier pool fees is on council's 2012 bucket list

Scrubbing two-tier pool fees is on North Cowichan’s 2012 bucket list.

Declining user rates, plus resident complaints about higher user fees for folks not funding the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, prompted council’s recent motion adoption toward single fees by year’s end.

“We’ll sit down with our pool-funding partners (Duncan and Cowichan Tribes) and have a discussion,” Mayor Jon Lefebure said.

“There are lots of options to discuss.”

One idea Lefebure likes involves long-touted regional-recreational funding whereby all Cowichan communities chip in to maintaining — and maybe building — facilities such as the pool, Cowichan Arena and Kerry Park’s worn-out complex.

“My biggest concern is we don’t have a repetition of Kerry Park, that’s still limping along, and issues in other communities where facilities get run down,” he said of Kerry Park’s failed referendum for funding a touted south-end pool, plus cash to fix its ice sheets.

“My goal is that we use a regional approach to fund recreation fairly, and ensure these major facilities are properly maintained.”

Aquatic Pool partners told regional leaders two-tier fees would be applied if those communities didn’t pay into maintaining the $20-million pool built in 2008 — replacing the outdated 1978 Aquannis Pool — by North Cowichan, Duncan and the Tribes.

No other funding partners have surfaced.

Owners of average North Cowichan homes pay about $150 annually toward the pool.

Adults from funding areas pay $5.50 to use the pool; out-of-area adults pay $11 under the two-tier tariff.

Drop-in admissions — outside of programs, passes or swipe cards — were 124,594 in 2010; 109,734 in 2011; and 77,276 so far this year, staff said.

Those dips bother single-fee fan Councillor John Koury.

“Now we have a sincere commitment from council to get rid of the two-tier fee structure. We have to build a business model that will hopefully demonstrate to our partners that it is the right thing to do.”

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent welcomed single-fee, and a regional-recreation talks.

“Entry fees don’t cover the cost of operating a facility like the pool. We’ve asked North Cowichan over recent years to consider changes to two-tier.

“Half the cost of our portion for the pool, and operating it, is from business owners living outside Duncan,” Kent said.

“Regional recreation options and issues have never gone to the public — their elected representatives have chosen for them.

“Let’s bring well thought-out options to the table, then let the public have its say, probably in a referendum.”

Cowichan Bay residents voted to reject pool-funding several years ago.

“We all need to pitch in with funding,” bay Director Lori Iannidinardo said. “We all have facilities that we don’t charge two-tier for,” she said, citing Hecate Park’s boat launch.

“Community facilities are there to break even, not to make a profit,” she said.

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