Council "smells the coffee" and "jumps out of the pool," removing the four-season aquatic centre from the 2012 five year financial plan

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
February 29th, 2012

As council continued to trudge through the draft 2012 five year financial plan (FP) on Monday evening, four of seven on council decided they did not want the $5 million four-season pool project in the FP, even though a contentious grant application for this project was submitted in December. The debate boiled down to two perspectives on the FP: Mayor Greg Granstrom said, “it’s just the plan,” while Coun. Kathy Moore maintained, “the plan is important.”


Granstrom said the FP was a “visionary document” that “doesn’t relate directly to taxation.” He said, “It’s just that if it’s in the plan and we have an opportunity to do it, we can do it. If it’s not in the plan, we can still amend … but that takes time.”


Moore said, “I don’t want to have a plan, even a ‘visionary plan’, showing something that we’ve had absolutely no discussion with the community on.” She pointed at the four season pool in this year’s draft plan and said, “I want it taken out.”


Moore noted that several amendments to include new projects had been made to the 2011 FP and said, “I’d prefer that if we want to include [the year round pool], we should amend the plan [later] to put it back.”  


She added that the FP is important because “sometimes money ends up getting spent on things that are in our plan, [and staff says,] ‘Oh, well, it was in the plan.'”


Coun. Jody Blomme argued, “One purpose of the plan is to cover our bases, all our bases. We as a council voted to apply for a grant. To take this out of the plan could potentially hinder that grant. Then we’re basically going through this whole process for nothing: we’re jumping into the pool, and we’re jumping out,”


Coun. Jill Spearn replied, “We’re reneging on our resolution, is what you’re saying—but we are the ones who are in the position to decide what goes into the plan.”


Moore said, “[Coun. Blomme] made a really good point about jumping in and out of the pool, but we also have to have a little bit of reality here too. That $30 million fund for recreation was oversubscribed.”


Grant applications from 219 municipalities were submitted for a total of $110 million in projects. The average grant application was for $500,000; Rossland applied for $2.5 to $4 million.


Moore continued, “If we’re thinking, ‘We should really cover ourselves here and make sure [the $5 million pool is in the FP] so when we get 13 per cent of the fund we’re ready for it’ … Let’s smell the coffee here, it’s not very likely.”


Moore added that it was unlikely that the granting agency would come “running back to our [FP] and say, ‘Oh my goodness, they weren’t committed, they took that out.’’ I think it’s more important for us to make a plan we believe in for our community than it is to go chasing the tail of some grant.”


Spearn said, “That aquatic centre—$5 million—I’m not favourable to leaving that in the plan for the reasons I’ve spoken against it before. But if it’s jeopardizing our grant opportunities [to take it out]…”


“It usually does,” CAO Victor Kumar interjected. “I’ll be up front. If you don’t have it in the [FP] at the time we put in [the grant application], it simply says, ‘We’ll amend it,’ which gives the message, ‘You never thought about it.’ You, [council], are not approving yet a project, you’re approving a vision.”


“But we’re not approving a vision,” Spearn countered. “This is my dispute. We didn’t approve this vision, and I’d rather see that $5 million spread over a whole bunch of things in the plan that are part of our vision, that are part of our sustainability. But I don’t want to be solely responsible for saying, ‘Take it out of the plan,’ and then somebody says, ‘You’re not getting any money now.'”


“I’ll be responsible,” Moore said, “This particular issue has been very troublesome in the community, and I do not want to see it in the plan.”


Spearn asked, “What if the [grant] money does comes to us, and then we are obligated to follow through on a plan that we told the provincial government, ‘We’re going to build an aquatic centre.’ So if we get all the money, [$4 million], what do we do with the money?”


Coun. Cary Fisher agreed in principle, but added, “We know we need to upgrade that pool at some point. We need to leave some number in there, we can’t take [the full] $5 million out.”


Both Spearn and Moore indicated agreement as Kumar jumped in, “Out of $5 million, $4 million is province’s. Net effect is only $1 million. The net effect of whole thing is about $400,000, at the end of the day … if you want to take it out, I don’t have a problem, I’m just saying what it means, it has no effect.”


“Everyone understands that,” Mayor Greg Granstrom responded, “I think this is a bit of contentious issue. [Coun. Fisher’s] point is that some money should stay in [the FP].”


Moore agreed, but said, “Had the ‘assessment’ of the pool given us a dollar figure of what it would have cost just to maintain our pool as a seasonal facility, I would be very comfortable [to use that number], but quite honestly, I don’t know what that number is. We know what it is to do a $5 million facility, we don’t know what it really takes just to keep it as a seasonal facility—but maybe staff does?”


The $25,000-plus “assessment” provided by Stantec engineers and Matthes architects laid out a budget for a $5 million redesign of Rossland’s pool to make it a year-round facility, but neither report included the word “assessment” nor made any mention of what upgrades would be required for the pool to continue simply as a seasonal facility.


Kumar told the mayor that the application had contained three options: a three month, a seven month, and a year round facility.


Moore said the number for the “three month” facility is what she wanted to leave in the FP. Spearn, Fisher, and Coun. Tim Thatcher agreed, passing the recommendation. Blomme, Granstrom, and Coun. Kathy Wallace were opposed.

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