By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
After a joint meeting between the mayors of Castor, Coronation, and the County of Paintearth council, it’s been agreed that all parties will come together to renegotiate recreation funding.
The decision was made after the County of Paintearth council received what they described as an “aggressively” worded letter signed by the two mayors.
After receiving the letter, County of Paintearth administration was instructed to invite the two mayors to a council meeting to discuss the issue further.
At issue in the letter was a paragraph stating that if the County of Paintearth declined to increase recreation funding, then the communities would be forced to move to a two-tier payment system, with community residents paying one fee and outsiders paying another.
“That paragraph was not now, not ever, in there to be confrontational,” said Mayor Richard Elhard.
“It was there to highlight the seriousness of this issue and this matter.”
Mayor Ron Checkel, of Coronation, agreed with his colleague.
“The towns have basically covered the costs (of recreation),” said Checkel.
“We finally did the numbers, and (the funding) is not even close. We don’t feel it’s fair to our citizens that we’re putting the extra through their taxes.”
Reeve Stan Schulmeister didn’t agree.
“I think a lot of it is opinion,” said Schulmeister.
“I thought the letter was very poorly done, but maybe it is time to look at things.”
Elhard and Checkel both emphasized the fact that the letter submitted was hammered out by all 11 councillors from the two communities, and was not sent as a threat, but as a way to make the costs more equitable between all parties.
“We want everybody to be able to use (the recreation facilities),” said Elhard.
“If we went for (increased) user fees to cover everything it would be hard on families with young kids. We want to keep our facilities open as long as we can.”
It has been 11 years since the recreation funding model between the County and the communities has been reviewed, and Schulmeister agreed that not only should recreation funding be reviewed, but other areas surrounding recreation need to be addressed as well.
“As far as not having a facility in town, I’m in support of keeping them,” said Schulmeister.
“Maybe we have to look at having one community has an arena, one has a pool. Without the 3C’s (hockey program) these places would be empty anyways.”
Councillor George Glazier was in agreement that things need to change.
“I agree the funding we are giving now probably isn’t adequate,” said Glazier.
“Minor sport – baseball in particular – you pay $20. It probably costs $100-plus to put the uniform on. There needs to be more consideration in fees. Hockey fees are the same as my son paid 20-plus years ago.”
Ultimately, by the time the nearly hour-long discussion ended, a decision was made to strike a committee, featuring representatives from all three of the councils, to come up with a sustainable long-term funding model for recreation in the region.