Who Should Pay For Pool Upgrade?

Posted on August 31, 2011


[Nienke Klaver & Ed Staples] ~ We would like to share with you several of our concerns regarding the proposed Princeton Aquatic Centre and the upcoming referendum on September 24th.

The first concern we have is that the proposed Aquatic Centre parcel tax is unfair. There are many people in this community who live on 2, 3 or 4 parcels with improvements on them. This does not necessarily mean that these people are well off, however they will end up paying 2, 3 or 4 times the $360 Parcel Tax. In some cases the property tax that people will have to pay would increase by more than $1200 per year. We have talked to people who are living on a yearly income of $10,000, have two 25 foot wide parcels with a current property tax of $100 who will not be able to afford the extra $360 per parcel. They could face a lien on their home, lose their home altogether or be forced to move. Some of these people have lived here as a full time resident for 50 years and are on a disability pension.

We are certainly not against a swimming pool for Princeton, however we cannot in good conscience vote to approve funding for such an extravagant facility when we know that there are people in the community that will experience serious financial distress if the referendum is passed.

Our second concern is the long term debt that our community will be facing to pay for the Aquatic Centre. We live in uncertain financial times and we believe that it would be prudent to raise the needed capital through fund raising, corporate donations, personal donations, and government grants and once we have the money, build a pool that is within our means or fix up the old pool and add a roof, rather than saddling our community with a 20 year loan and an annual operational deficit of $600,000.

A fundraising campaign to build a pool for Princeton may be a way to heal angry and/or hurt feelings that have developed in our community over this issue and it may help to unite the community by working towards one goal, instead of the division and bitterness that are now present.

Although the pool committee does not support the idea of a user fee, we feel that this may be an alternative worth considering to offset the $600,000 operating cost deficit. This could be administered in the same way as the Princeton Golf and Country golf club membership. A reduced entrance fee for Princeton Aquatic Centre members would also encourage members to use the pool and at the same time give all residents a choice. For occasional users and people visiting our community, the entrance fee could be higher than for people who pay the user fee. There are people who are now willing to pay $360 or more for a parcel tax to support a new pool. We could find out how many of those are willing to pay the same amount through a user fee, so we will know exactly how much money will come in. In this way a tax burden wonʼt be placed on people who live as far away as East Gate or Missezula Lake and will never use the pool, or people who have a cabin at the lake for the summer and prefer to do their swimming there, or people who cannot afford the parcel tax.

We feel that itʼs important to mention that this Aquatic Centre is a luxury item which cannot and should not be compared with essential services such as what we pay through our taxes for education, social welfare and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

Our last concern is with the feasibility report. The same consultants (Professional Environmental Recreational Consultants Ltd) that prepared the feasibility study for the Princeton Pool also did a feasibility study for the Town of Vanderhoof which has a similar population base, but a substantially higher average annual income, according to the 2006 Census. The proposed aquatic centre building costs in each community are similar. In the Vanderhoof feasibility study, the consultants advised against the pool because, according to their report, a population of 4000 was not enough for their community to afford the aquatic centre. The consultants recommended that Vanderhoof form a cooperative partnership with outlying areas which would bring their population base to 13,000. The total population of Princeton plus Area H is 5400, however there are only 3344 parcels, consequently the costs will be born by the 3344 property owners or less, since some people have more than one property. This begs the question: “ Why did the consultants not advise against this project as they did in the Vanderhoof study?” This question has been presented to the Pool Committee several times, however so far an answer has not been provided.

Let us make it clear that we would love to see a full season pool in our community but we cannot support the concept if it presents an unfair financial burden to some residents of our community. There has to be a better way.

Nienke Klaver & Ed Staples