Passionate support saves Campbell River Sportsplex from closure

City council casts around for savings from any source

Closing the Sportsplex to make up a budget deficit isn’t off the table, but any potential closure would be less than six months long.

City council was going through a list of service items at Tuesday’s financial meeting to see how much money could be shaved off the city’s $3.6 million 2012 budget deficit.

“I’m probably speaking for all of council that all the options on the table we would not like to have to consider at all,” said Coun. Andy Adams. “But knowing the situation we’re in, we can’t do it all on reserves. We’re going to be talking about some things that are passionate to some people and I’d encourage people to come forward with their ideas.”

At the forefront of people’s minds was the Sportsplex, which would save the city $453,500 if it were to close for one year.

“When we read that one of the suggestions by the city manager to reduce costs was to close the Sportsplex for six months to a year we were quite disturbed,” wrote Bruce and Wendy Murdoch in a letter to the city. “We would estimate that the Sportsplex provides services to thousands of people which includes property tax payers and their families.”

At the meeting, Coun. Claire Moglove presented a motion – which passed – to take closing the Sportsplex off the table.

“Here’s one that I’m passionate about,” Moglove said. “I think closing the Sportsplex for one year or six months is a non-starter.”

Coun. Ryan Mennie agreed.

“We don’t bring in the revenue to support the actual running of the building but the worth of that building to the community can’t be put on a page,” he said.

However, council directed city staff to report back on possible savings if the city were to reduce the amount of programming at the Sportsplex or close the facility for a period, such as during the summer months.

Council also agreed to, for now, keep Centennial Pool open and possibly fund pool operations through the gaming reserve. It also chose to continue irrigation, garbage pick-up in parks, and mowing and maintenance of sports fields.

Council also chose to keep a reduction of fire crews down to three on the table ($311,310 in savings), for discussion at a future financial meeting. Moglove wants more information on how Campbell River compares to other similar-sized communities, the legalities of reducing the number of first responders, and why other communities – such as Courtenay – have a volunteer, rather than a paid, fire department.

But council did pare down some services.

One park specialist position (grass trimming and hand mowing) was eliminated; the council contingency budget was reduced by $50,000 per year; and council travel expenditures were capped at $20,000 for 2012. Council will also consider reducing horticulture (tree and shrub planting, landscaping) by 50 per cent; increasing business licence fees; reducing its fleet by 20 per cent; decreasing repair levels on facilities; increasing park user fees and reducing the number of staff Blackberries.

Council is also debating co-ordinating its economic development bodies such as Rivercorp, Tourism, Visitor Centre, Creative Industries and INFilm, which make up $582,500 of the 2012 budget.

“I do think there are cost savings to be had by co-ordinating economic initiatives but I’d like to know more about that,” Moglove said. “I think the way to go is this co-ordination but I definitely think we need more information.”

Council will continue budget planning during financial meetings on Feb. 28, March 13 and March 28.

All meetings start at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall and are open to the public.