Vernon, B.C. voters will soon get to decide if they want to borrow up to $121 million for a new recreation facility called the Active Living Centre and pay the expected tax increases.
So on Tuesday, the city gave reporters a tour of the community’s current aquatic centre highlighting the ways the municipality sees the existing facility falling short.
Built-in the 1960s, and extensively renovated in the 1990s, the city says the current pool facilities are becoming more expensive and time-consuming to maintain.
“We have infrastructure in there from every decade. We are trying to keep things upgraded and as modern as possible, but when you are renovating constantly you do run into challenges,” said Vernon’s director of recreation services Doug Ross.
“I can tell you that probably in the last two years we’ve invested over a million dollars in the facility to keep it up.”
One example of the challenges the city sees with the aging infrastructure is the waterslide. Vernon council had budgeted $96,000 to fix it up, but engineers found it would need more extensive repairs leaving it closed indefinitely.
“There is a tarp that is draped underneath it and that is so no debris falls down onto the pool deck or into the pool,” Ross explained.
Ross said compromises were made so the current aquatic centre would fit on the existing site, meaning nearly 30 years later, it simply isn’t big enough.
“We currently (have) 1,220 kids registered in swimming lessons and we have 660 on the waiting list that we couldn’t accommodate so there is a graphic example of a capacity issue,” Ross said.
However, the proposed new recreation facility that could replace the existing pool comes with a major price tag and likely significant tax increases for Vernon property owners.
Asked if it was possible to meet the city’s recreation needs at a lower price point than what is being proposed, Ross said the proposed Active Living Centre reflects what the community has asked for.
Ross said the $121-million borrowing request is the most city officials believe the proposed Active Living Centre could possibly cost and includes contingencies.
“Our hope is that we won’t be spending $121 million,” Ross said.
The borrowing referendum for the new facility will occur alongside civic elections on Oct. 15.
If the borrowing is approved, it will trigger a larger discussion with other local governments in the region about what to do with the existing aquatic centre, which is regionally funded.
If the borrowing is rejected, the current aquatic centre will remain in operation.