The fate of the Sportsplex, Centennial Pool and fire crews was sealed by council this week.
Council decided not to close the Sportsplex for July and August which would have saved $111,000 but would have eliminated 29,800 visits and displaced several user groups and forced the cancellation of 15 special summertime events, such as Movies Under the Stars.
“I believe it’s not in the best interest of the community because a lot of important events would be lost and there would be a disruption to city staff (who would have to be laid off),” Coun. Claire Moglove said.
Coun. Larry Samson agreed closing the Sportsplex was not an option.
“I don’t think we should be closing the Sportsplex, it’s too important to our youth,” he said. “I just think it’s a non-starter.”
Council also chose to keep Centennial Pool open and fund operations with the gaming reserve, a replenishing reserve used to fund community social services.
Council also had a lengthy discussion surrounding reducing four-person fire crews down to three in an effort to save $311,310.
Moglove tabled a motion to remove reducing fire crews from the list of options.
“I believe it comes down to public safety,” Moglove said.
Samson, a former fire chief, said reducing the number of first responders would be putting the city and the fire department in harm’s way.
“Our dollar loss (after a fire) is among some of the lowest in the province and it’s because of our firefighters,” Samson said. “For $2 a month, I don’t think we should reduce the manpower of our fire department.”
Coun. Andy Adams said although he was loathe to not support taking the reduction off the table, he said he felt because of the serious financial situation the city is in, it had to remain an option. In the end, council voted to nix reducing fire crews, with councillors Adams, Mary Storry and Mayor Jakeway opposed.
Council continued to pare down its services.
It chose to reduce grass trimming and manual mowing in neighbourhood parks and tot lots such as Penfield West, Bowen Park and Cambridge Park by 14 per cent. Grass trimming affects fence lines, playground perimeters, signage, and benches. Manual mowing is used in areas that are too small to use a ride-on mower.
Ross Milnthorp, the city’s manager of parks, recreation and culture said as a result of the reduction in service, he suspects some parks will see minimal service. Council then chose to slash the horticulture budget by 25 per cent and increased business licence fees by $150 per year, which will impact roughly 2,000 existing community businesses.
Council also voted to reduce the Communities in Bloom budget to $2,000. The competition committee had asked council for $26,000 but that figure was too high for council.
“I wish we could do the full $26,000 but I think the Communities in Bloom Committee will understand,” Storry said. “They’ve got some great corporate sponsors and hopefully next year we’ll be able to re-instate the full amount.”
The city won the national competition in its population category last year and this year is invited to participate at the international level. The committee said last week if the city chose to reduce its parks staff it would pull out of the competition.
Council also made the following cuts to services:
n Decrease maintenance and repair levels on city buildings by 13 per cent
n Reduce council/mayor travel and conference expenditures to $20,000 – savings of $18,500
n Contract out cemetery maintenance
n Reduce Advisory Committee support
n Increase park user fees
n Reduce the number of Blackberries for staff
n Delete skate board park hosts – savings of $18,000
Council will continue to form the budget during its final two financial planning meetings on March 13 and 28. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall and are open to the public.