City officials see value in ice user groups’ arguments for year-round ice at more affordable rental rates
The April 5 Gibsons full committee saw what the committee called one of the most effective delegation presentations in recent memory. The submission, from Sunshine Coast Skating Club president Andrea Watson, asked for the city’s help in getting improvements to ice time on the coast and the committee agreed to do so.
Speaking on behalf of his group and other arena ice users, Watson explained how these community members have been stymied in their efforts to extend the local skating season. This season should end with the release of ice from the Gibsons Recreation Center in early April.
Even more frustrating for these groups is the lack of clarity around how the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) calculates the costs associated with maintaining and renting ice at its two arenas.
Watson’s efforts had the desired effect. The committee agreed to lobby the SCRD for answers on ice costs and why at least one of the skating surfaces cannot be kept in service during the spring/summer season when representatives turn up for a meeting municipal in the coming weeks.
Committee members have also made statements in support of the maintenance of the ice so that competitive skaters on the coast and the general public can benefit from the facilities that have been built and are funded by taxpayers’ money. Com. Annemarie De Andrade and Stafford Lumley also said they were intrigued by the accounting used by the regional district to justify the costs of ice time.
Watson said the only cost detail the SCRD has provided to user groups comes from a report received in January 2019. It states that the additional cost of year-round ice maintenance is estimated at $7 $185 per week. This cost is broken down into $2,000 for staffing, operating expenses of $2,550 and capital replacement of $2,885.
The capital cost portion is “the fly in the ointment” according to Watson. She said that without this portion included in ice rental rates, “the costs would be almost affordable” for user groups. When his organization requested additional records of ice time fees, SCRD instructed them to use the Access to Information (FOI) request process, further detailing the data provision.
User groups were unhappy with the results produced by the access to information process, and Watson, unsure “what to do next”, wrote to the Gibsons board for help. She said she received no response to multiple inquiries made to the mayor of Sechelt for the same thing.
While waging a battle over accounting and fee-setting practices, Watson said everyone involved seemed to have forgotten that “our children are the most important piece.” She detailed that young skaters and hockey players on the coast are at a disadvantage without the opportunity to train locally all year round. She described the financial and emotional costs her family has suffered in their efforts to support her daughter’s activities in competitive figure skating. These involved multiple trips off the coast each season, requiring ferry trips, accommodation and meals away from home, and wasting time at school for her child.
Closing his call to reconsider ice rental fees and keep ice in at least one coastal arena year-round, Watson said: “It’s not okay to keep saying no when we have the ability to say yes.
Mayor Bill Beamish agreed. He said that when the campaign for the SCRD to borrow to build the Gibsons and Area Community Center was launched in 2005, one of the arguments in favor of taking on that debt was that the ice would be available all year. year. The community economic development potential of hosting summer hockey camps and other on-ice training camps at this location was something he felt made sense by taking a loan to be repaid by the taxpayers.
Beamish encouraged Watson to have groups in favor of adjustments to SCRD Leisure Facilities Policies write to Gibsons Council and that the correspondence will be copied to the Regional District Council. He also encouraged ice user groups to keep in touch with the SCRD and to continue to seek meetings to discuss their concerns with staff and the Board.