A large crowd turned out to Monday night’s council meeting to show their support for the Rossland Arena.
In the “Rossland Council Connects” online newsletter that was sent out on Wednesday, March 21, Mayor Kathy Moore informed citizens that unexpected expenses had arisen for the arena.
“Based on a recent inspection, we need approximately $200k for repairs and improvements to the Rossland Arena just to open the facility for ice sports in the fall of 2018. These improvements were not contemplated in the initial draft of the 2018 budget. The City is working with the Arena Task Force on creative ways to fund these repairs. Over the next few years, the investment needed is estimated to be about $3M,” she wrote.
This led to fear amongst ice users that the Rossland Arena would be closed and many showed up to the Miners’ Hall — where city and staff have been working since the partial collapse of the City Hall roof — dressed in hockey jerseys and gear to show their support.
One man came in full goalie equipment.
Moore started the meeting by addressing the concerns about the arena.
“Our budget up until this point has been pretty well crafted and we did not anticipate needing close to $200,000 [of] work in the arena,” she said. “And this came about because a WorkSafeBC inspection came, had things that they wanted us to do and in fact basically said, ‘If you don’t do these things, you can’t open the arena in the fall.’ So for us to open the arena in the fall, we had to find — from the money tree down the street — $200,000.”
Moore emphasized that council had in no way made a decision to close the arena and that it was up to Rosslanders to let council know what they wanted.
“It’s just about what everyone wants and what they’re willing to pay for it,” she said.
Moore also introduced the idea of repurposing the arena while speaking to the need for larger public engagement on recreation in Rossland.
“Is there an appetite for repurposing the arena? Is there an appetite for turning it into an all-season recreation facility that does other sports other than ice? Because that would save a lot of money,” she said. “There may not be that appetite, but we need to hear from the whole community, not just people who currently use the ice, but people who don’t use the ice. People who are going to use the ice in five years, something like that.”
Everyone who stood up to speak at the meeting was in support of keeping ice in the arena and making sure it would open in the fall.
Speakers included members of the Arena Task Force, representatives from Minor Hockey, the Rossland Moguls, Rossland Curling and Rossland Figure Skating, as well as parents and other concerned community members.
After Rossland residents had made it clear that they supported the arena staying open and asked council to consider the social benefits of the arena, not just the financial picture, Elma Hamming, manager of finance for the City of Rossland, presented the budget later in the meeting.
The presentation, which is available on the City of Rossland’s website at rossland.ca, reiterated that Rossland council had requested that tax increases remain between two and five per cent between 2019 and 2022 and that a one per cent tax increase would result in $50,000 of additional revenue for the city.
The presentation included suggestions to increase the projected tax increase in certain years — up from a 1.25 per cent increase to a 3 per cent increase in 2019, and up from 2 to 2.5 per cent in 2020 and in 2021.
Hamming explained that $110,000 of the $200,000 needed for the arena had already been included in the budget.
“For the arena, we had an existing $110,000 in the budget in anticipation of the study that was going to be delivered to us and then the extra $90,000 has been put aside in revenue as fundraising. And if that fundraising doesn’t come through for 2018, then my suggestion would be to borrow that money from reserves through an amended budget near the end of the year and then increase the tax rates for 2019 to put that money back into reserves,” said Hamming.
The capital budget also includes $750,000 for the City Hall roof collapse, $500,000 of which will be covered by insurance.
After an extensive discussion on the budget, council made the decision to spend the required funds to open the arena in the fall.
Council amends financial assistance policy
Rossland council also heard from Ona Stanton, who urged council to amend its Financial Assistance for Use of Facilities, Pools and Parks policy.
The policy allowed children up to 18 years of age who were participating in team sports in Trail to apply for financial assistance to cover up to 25 per cent of the differential fee paid by Rosslanders using Trail recreation services, so long as there were at least five Rossland participants on the team.
“Being funded 25 per cent per group is great, we appreciate it, but it’s not enough to make it possible for us to participate in the program,” she said.
Council already had an item on the agenda to amend the policy so that eligible applicants could receive assistance up to 50 per cent of the differential fee and so that the five-participant restriction did not apply to clubs or groups catering to individuals with physical or developmental disabilities.
After discussion, council decided to get rid of the five-participant limit entirely and also decided that any part of the $10,000 budget for the financial assistance left over at the end of the year be divided among those who accessed the fund in proportion to their original access.
Need for public engagement on recreation
Recreation spending has been a recurring theme at Rossland city council meetings and Moore and city councillors raised the need for the city to engage in organized public outreach on the subject throughout the meeting.
In the same newsletter paragraph that raised concern about the arena, Moore also wrote:
“Council has heard from numerous groups who are passionate about recreation. It’s been ten years since we did any public outreach on the subject. Our population has changed and grown. We have more children and young families in town and more seniors too. We want your input on issues such as using Trail’s recreational facilities & programs as well your thoughts on Rossland’s facilities. It all comes down to what the community wants, balanced with what we can afford. Watch in the upcoming weeks for a survey and please express your views.”
Council ended the meeting with a discussion on how it should go about that process, especially given that the current council’s term will end in October.
City staff was instructed to contact a professional consultant who can advise on how to proceed.