Regional District wants to re-allocate recreation funds

  • Mar. 12, 2008 8:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay and Alex Rinfret–Summer camp and other island-wide recreation planning may be a thing of the past, if a proposed bylaw change is made at the regional district. Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha told council at the March 3 meeting that the regional district wants to revise its recreation bylaw and is seeking support from islands directors to redirect funds from the islands-wide commission. Instead, the recreation budget would be divided up and sent directly to each community. The regional district now spends $45,000 on wages and $32,000 on overhead for the islands recreation commission, but very little on programming, Ms Kulesha said. Other communities have complained that they are not receiving enough benefit from the way things are set up now, she said. “Island directors want it to go this way,” she said, when councillor Greg Martin asked “So if we oppose, we’d be the odd one out?” After some discussion, council unanimously agreed to support revising the bylaw, but during the public participation at the end of the session, Queen Charlotte residents raised some concern. “I see benefits to an island-wide committee,” said Leslie Johnson. She reminded council of the all-island summer camps, which both of her children had attended, and the advertising done each week for recreation programs in all communities. Saying money isn’t going into programming isn’t accurate, she said. “A wage is a mechanism for creating programming,” she said. It is also one of the rare full-time jobs offered on the islands. Other community members also thought the islands recreation commission was doing fine. “I think they have a great track record. Why fix something that’s not broken?” said Brad Schultz. Sean Muise, who runs badminton programs through the rec commission, says the way things are now the program is very cheap and very successful. “If that’s going to change with what you propose, that’s too bad,” he said. Ms Kulesha thanked people for starting the dialogue. “It’s not a black and white situation,” she said. The general idea is that recreation planning would be better if it happened within communities. She did note that some communities have their own recreation commission or, in Masset’s case, a recreation centre. She said Queen Charlotte’s allocation would amount to $19,000 to $20,000 a year. This money could possibly be put towards trails. “Maybe there is a volunteer organization that wants to run program through us,” she said. Masset mayor Barry Pages, who is also the chair of the regional district, said Monday (March 10) that directors have been discussing the rec commission but there is no timeline for making a decision. Masset council has not discussed the issue or decided which approach to recreation funding it supports, he said. Council has been waiting to hear from recreation coordinator Karen McMurray, but she was not able to make it to two council meetings last month. “There has been discussion that communities wanted to see funding going into program delivery and not positions,” he said. According to the regional district’s draft budget, it spent about $77,000 last year on the islands for the recreation coordinator and activities; the amount set aside for the islands recreation commission this year is $92,000. The money comes from islands taxpayers. Area D director Ian Hetman said the money would continue to be spent if the proposed changes are made, but would be spent in a different way: split up between the islands communities, who could then use it for whatever recreation activities they thought were important. “It would be spent for the mandate for which it was created,” he said. “Activities, rather than staffing.” Mr. Hetman said he is checking with his community committees to see if they support the change. “I haven’t heard from all of them,” he told the Observer last week. “They want to think it over.” Mr. Hetman said there could still be all-island recreation activities like a soccer league, as long as they communities all agreed and all put some money towards it. The way the commission is run now, some communities have benefited more than others, he said. He added that it is sometimes difficult to get programs going because the communities are so far apart.