When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, one of the first moves the City of Campbell River made was to close facilities where the virus could be spread by the public congregating, such as recreation hubs and community centres.
When that happened, the city pulled more than $700,000 back from the Recreation and Culture budget, as that department was only providing “virtual and outreach services,” according to a staff report presented at the Aug. 31 meeting of city council.
When the department began reintroducing in-person services in July, however, the city re-injected $93,000 back into the department’s budget.
A report presented to council Aug. 31 requested the addition of another $30,000 to continue the department’s “progressive and systematic approach to restarting in-person programming.”
That money will go towards increasing the operations at the Community Centre and Sportsplex, specifically, and much of the money will go towards implementing COVID-19 safety measures and additional cleaning and sanitization because the pandemic also triggered a requirement for enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of city facilities.
In the past, most city facilities have relied on contractors to clean facilities after hours, but those contractors were unable to provide the level of cleaning required within their existing contracts when the new requirements were implemented.
Many employees of the city’s Recreation and Culture department – specifically the Facility Service Workers (FSWs) – were redeployed to facilities like the airport, the Dogwood Operation Centre and the Downtown Safety Office to provide the enhanced cleaning needed at those facilities to keep them operational, while others were laid off.
“Staff are currently planning to gradually increase our indoor fitness offerings, expand weight room hours, gradually bring the 50+ members back and gradually introduce programs for children and families,” the report says, adding that while the pilot programming that has been reintroduced in the past two months has been “highly successful,” the department won’t be able to continue to expand services without additional FSWs.
“What we’ve learned during these pilots is that we can actually do more than we’d planned,” city general manager Ron Bowles told council during the discussions.
“But as we start getting ready for the fall and bringing more and more of our programs indoors – we know what happens in Campbell River in the fall, it starts raining – we need more of our Facility Service Workers, who are presently engaged in disinfecting the rest of our facilities.
This $30,000 is the cost from now until Dec. 31 to get some additional Facility Service Workers so we can offer the indoor programming at the Sportsplex and Community Centre and still do the disinfection services for the rest of the city.”
The budget increase was approved by council.
“I want to give a huge thank you to our recreation staff at all our facilities for what they’re doing,” said Coun. Claire Moglove. “I participated in one of the fitness classes this morning – it was the first one that was indoors – and the extent to which they are making it safe for everyone is great.
“They’ve done everything they can to make it safe and the response has been very good,” adding that she feels the lack of organized recreation activities throughout the pandemic “has really been missed by the community.”
Watch the Recreation and Culture Department’s Facebook page (Facebook.com/campbellriverrec) for details on when various programs are re-opening and the safety precautions being taken.