Council considers severe cutbacks to recreation

City of Campbell River needs to find cuts in order to make up for a $3.6 tax deficit

City council will consider closing recreational facilities, reducing fire crews and decreasing park maintenance in order to erase a projected $3.6 million budget deficit.

Council has a number of ideas to help balance the 2012 budget, according to a city staff report.

“A brainstorming session was held to generate ideas of which services provided by the city could be altered, reduced, provided in a different fashion, or eliminated,” said Laura Ciarniello, general manager of corporate services.

At the top of the list is reducing the four-person fire crews down to three, which would save $311,310 annually.

However, that reduction would increase insurance rates for multi residential, commercial, industrial and hotels to $137,000 said Ciarniello. It would also delay response times to fires that require entry into a building. In addition, auxiliary firefighters would be expected to respond more frequently.

“This additional response requirement may have an adverse effect on retention and morale,” Ciarniello said.

Council will also consider closing the Sportsplex for either one year – freeing up $453,500 in the 2012 budget – or for six months which would mean a savings of $464,000.

Closing the Sportsplex would mean eliminating facility rentals for special events such as the Hospital Foundation Trivia Night, Home Show, dances, toy and craft sale, and indoor sports tournaments, Ciarniello said. It would also displace 18 user groups such as the badminton club, Campbell River Volleyball Club, and Stroke Recovery Peer Support.

Another option is to close Centennial Outdoor Pool, which would save the city $121,000 per year but cancel 216 hours of swimming lessons.

Council is also looking at reducing irrigation in community parks by 25 per cent to save $11,300; eliminating grass trimming and manual mowing in all parks; reducing garbage pick-up in parks by 25 per cent; and reducing mowing and sports field maintenance by 50-70 per cent. Grass cutting in parks would be reduced from once per week to once every three weeks and grass clippings would not be bagged. Sports fields would be mowed once a week, instead of twice a week.

Other service cuts under consideration include: increasing business license fees; having all economic initiatives such as Tourism, Visitor Information Centre, INFilm and Creative Industries co-ordinated by Rivercorp which would allocate funding and manage activities; reducing council/mayor travel and conference expenses; and reducing the city’s vehicle fleet.

Council is also considering not participating in Communities in Bloom, which would save $26,000, as well as looking at increasing park user fees; reducing the number of Blackberry phones given to city staff; deleting the skate board park hosts; and exploring contract adjustments with Emterra in regard to garbage, recycling, and yard waste pick-up.

Council debated the 2012 budget Tuesday night after the Mirror went to press.