Pool tops recreation wish list 

Majority of taxpayers in Pemberton and Electoral Area C would accept an increase to develop amenities

A pool would be cool. That’s one of the findings of a survey conducted as part of a study of Pemberton and Electoral Area C’s recreational needs.

Commissioned by the Village of Pemberton and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the survey is an integral part of a report prepared by Surrey’s Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants to assess the community’s recreational needs.

Seventy-one per cent of the more than 400 surveyed supported building an indoor pool. Establishing an ice arena in the area came in second with 66 per cent of respondents in favour. Rounding out the top three choices for facilities was a "dry" recreation centre with 59 per cent support.

Two-thirds of those interviewed viewed the current facilities as being inadequate, with safety topping the list of concerns. The Pemberton Community Centre, located in the former Pemberton Secondary School on Pemberton Meadows Road, has survived two floods and as result has accrued extensive problems with mould. The issue of the decommissioned building’s mould – a commonly acknowledged allergen and contributing factor in many respiratory illnesses – was mentioned 19 times in responses to the survey’s open-ended question on facility usage.

Most taxpayers are agreeable to a tax increase to offset costs associated with the construction of a new facility. At the proposed rate of taxation ($70 per annum), four out of five respondents were in favour of the project. Additionally, almost three-quarters of respondents would find additional taxes of a $100 or more a year acceptable.

In terms of location, most survey participants felt that the land that was proposed for the dry community centre, an initiative defeated earlier this year as a result of counter petition, would be appropriate.

Paul Edgington, SLRD administrator, was not surprised by the findings: neither in terms or the respondents’ desires nor the costs outlined in PERC’s report.

"My gut feel on recreation spaces is that a pool would probably have a higher usage than a arena," said Edgington, citing the number of young families in the community. "Swimming takes less equipment, all you need is a bathing suit and admission."

Edgington suspects that the number of young families in the community made the swimming pool option the favoured choice. The bigger question may be one of affordability.

"Based on the research that I’d done, costs were in line with what I expected them to be," said the administrator.

The PERC report cited the average annual family income in the area to be $55,000; this may have a dramatic effect on the report’s eventual outcome.

"Fifty-five thousand, in terms of mean family income isn’t a lot, considering housing costs," Edgington said, noting that qualifying for a traditional mortgage of $315,000 (the average value of a house in Pemberton in 2003) a household income of $78,000 is required.

"Affordability becomes a value question," admitted Edgington. "When average family incomes can’t service a new mortgage, there’s a problem. I’d say the new facilities are imminently affordable for some, not for others."

The next step for the SLRD-VOP joint recreation committee is to take the report back to the community, but Edgington acknowledged that this will likely be the first in many steps before ground is broken. The report suggests that a referendum be held to decide the fate of the community’s recreation future and Edgington agrees.

"Doing a referendum may be the fairest way to go," he said, adding that the decision to go to referendum on the issue rests with board.

He said the referendum question, should the board support this course of action, will likely be asked during the civic election in November.

PERC will be presenting results of their 206-page report at a public meeting, 7 p.m. on Monday, July 11 at the Pemberton Community Centre. The format for the evening will be a facilitated workshop.

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