Whistlerites could be looking at a 15 per cent hike in Parks and Recreation facility rental fees over the next five years in order to keep pace with the municipal department’s increasing operational costs.
Council passed all three readings to a bylaw amendment Tuesday (Dec. 4) that would set the recommended rental fee schedule for indoor and outdoor municipal recreation facilities for the next five years, with a planned three per cent annual increase until 2017.
“We’re looking at three per cent annual increases to keep a better pace with operational costs, which is more linked to energy costs,” said the municipality’s manager of recreation Roger Weetman.
Whistler’s Parks and Recreation department have made significant efforts in recent years to reduce their energy usage, especially at the 19-year-old Meadow Park Sports Centre (MPSC), in order to mitigate rising energy rates.
The facility’s pool now uses a new geothermal and solar panel heating system and upgrades to the pool’s boiler are currently underway. The muni anticipates these measures will result in around $125,000 in savings mostly due to reduced natural gas usage.
“There is a growing gap between revenues and costs at Meadow Park Sports Centre that’s presently being mitigated with some really good energy performance we’re getting (there), but in my mind that’s a temporary situation allowing us to keep our head above water probably for a year or two before it starts to move forward,” said Weetman, adding that the department has already completed most of the major energy-saving measures it can, meaning energy costs could “really start to hit us hard in the next few years.”
The department has taken other measures to keep public facility costs down, including the relocation and reduction of staff at the MPSC, which resulted in municipal savings of $18,000.
Weetman stressed the importance of maintaining the department’s high service standards for residents who place a high importance on recreational opportunities in the community.
“We’ve got to be careful in terms of operating reductions without sacrificing cleanliness, maintenance and customer service … We’re really at a stage where we’ve kind of whittled away as much as we can,” he said.
The new fee schedule was proposed following the municipality’s consultation with the Recreation and Leisure Advisory Committee, a group established in the summer to provide input to council on recreational opportunities, services and issues.
“It was a great opportunity for the group to go over all the fees and charges and it also was appropriate that the committee brought some really good rationale forward for giving local kids an opportunity to play on the fields and keep some of those prices down, and it was very appreciated that staff listened to them,” said Coun. Andrée Janyk, who sits on the committee.
Following the group’s recommendations, the muni kept rental fees down for local youth organizations and will continue to offer the rental of trails, playfields and parks free of charge for local youngsters.
The Parks department added three new facilities to their fee structure this year: Lost Lake Passiv Haus, the Olympic Plaza Ice Rink and Bayly Park.
The Passiv Haus’ Austria Room can be rented by local adults for $31.90 an hour and $21.05 for local youth. The facility’s Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Room is rented by the hour for local adults at a rate of $23.51 and $15.52 for local youth.
The Olympic Plaza Ice Rink is available to rent from 9 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday for $87.43 an hour for local adults and youth.
Rental fees for Bayly Park are identical to Whistler’s other parks, with local adults paying $24.84 per hour while local youth pay nothing.
Rates are increased for commercial groups and out-of-towners for all of Whistler’s municipal recreation sites.
The department also raised gym rental fees for Whistler Secondary School, Myrtle Philip Community School and Spring Creek Community School.
Visit www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov to find Tuesday’s council meeting package and all of the proposed recreational facility fees.