A Ray of hope: council tries to take some of the – ahem – Sting out of Trail user fees
When, where, how, and for whom should the city be providing financial assistance to overcome the Trail Resident Program fees imposed on Rosslanders following the dissolution of regional recreation? That question was posed to city council Monday night in response to a letter received from the Trail Stingrays Swim Club.
Just as many other Rossland Residents who use – or formerly used – Trail facilities for either individual recreation or as part of a league or organization, the Trail Stingrays Swim Club has been affected. Currently there are 13 Rosslanders in the swim club who have been hit with a $355 per annum membership fee as non-Trail residents.
Michael Bell, acting treasurer for the club, submitted a letter requesting financial support for the organization from Rossland Council. The club is seeking $4,500 from the City of Rossland to cover the additional non-Trail resident fees for 13 participants from Rossland.
Of the four options presented to Council by city staff, the recommended course of action was to establish a policy for financial assistance of non-profit recreation groups utilizing facilities and services outside of Rossland. The policy would budget funds to provide financial aid based on a set of specified criteria up to a maximum dollar amount. The policy would also mandate which non-profit competitive recreation group could apply for funds and would be adjudicated by city council.
Through debate and discussion, the criteria for the policy were set. They include first allocating a specified dollar figure to be included in the financial plan ($20,000) for the current year to financially assist members and volunteers of non-profit groups and clubs towards recreation and competitive programs outside of Rossland. Those members must be children under 18, physically or mentally challenged individuals, or seniors over the age of 55. Applications would need to be made to council and groups would be required to have a minimum of ten Rossland residents. The program also must be something that is not currently offered in Rossland. On top of this, the club must be a non-profit organization that have been in existence for more than two years.
There was some trepidation on the part of councilors on this issue with Councilor Andy Stradling commenting, “I’m not opposed to the principle, but I’m concerned about the risk of this getting out of control. This is precedent setting. Right now there are 13 Stingrays and each one of them gets funding assistance through the club equivalent to $330. There are 200 plus people who use the Aquatic Centre from Rossland. If 200 people hear about the benefits of becoming a Stingray, this could balloon to a fairly significant number. Where do you put the breaks on something like this?”
That issue was addressed in the drafting of the bylaw that was ultimately carried. Currently, the city has $80,000 in recreation reserves that it has saved through the dissolution of regional recreation. Council decided to allot $20,000 from this $80,000 reserve to the new policy. Of that $20,000 no group can apply for more than 25% of the total, and when the allotted funds for this year are used up, no further applications will be considered.
Mayor Granstrom was also in support of the intent behind the new policy, noting that, “We’re not going to be able to come up with something that solves the problem for everyone. This is a way to address some of the hardship imposed by the Trail Residency Program… It’s a way to buy some good will in the community if you will.”
Following the adoption of the new policy, council also passed the Trail Stringrays’ request for $4,500 under the newly-created policy, pending an application from the group.
This policy, while assisting some groups, will leave other groups affected by the Trail resident program fees out of luck. One such group is made up of the two Rossland co-ed slow-pitch teams that have pulled out of the Haley Park-based league this season after 15 years. The 30 plus members of these two teams are currently trying to find solutions to the issue as league play began last week. Under the new policy, Rossland co-ed slow pitch teams will not qualify for funding as they are not members of a league at present.