Council divided on recreation plan

Some councillors are concerned about its costs. The Village of Burns Lake is in the process of creating a recreation master plan.

The Village of Burns Lake is in the process of creating a recreation master plan.

This plan is part of council’s 2017 municipal objectives, which were approved last month.

According to the village, the plan will be used as a tool to assist in managing village investments in recreation. However, it still isn’t clear if the plan will be used to expand current services or better manage the services that already exist.

“This is yet to be determined,” said Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Burns Lake.

Burns Lake council discussed the plan during a special meeting last week.

During the meeting, councillor Chris Beach suggested the creation of more parks and green spaces in Burns Lake.

Councillor Kelly Holliday questioned the cost and the implications that increasing the number of green spaces in Burns Lake would have on the recreation department’s budget.

“I understand that there’s benefit to the community, but there’s no benefit to the recreation budget,” said Holliday.

The village has been dealing with a significant increase in its recreation department’s budget.

From 2013 to 2015, the department’s average deficit increased from $86,193 to $163,703 (excluding the ice arena).

Increasing expenditures were mainly attributed to longer days of operation of the Lakeside Multiplex, increased maintenance and additional staff.

In order to address this issue, earlier this year council voted to increase Lakeside Multiplex user fees for electoral areas B and E members as well as visitors to the community by 25 per cent.

Beach defended his argument by saying that the recreation master plan and the recreation budget are two separate things.

However, according to Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Burns Lake, the cost of the recreation master plan will come from the 2017 budget.

“We are still determining the scope of the plan,” explained Worthing. “Once council has had an opportunity to do that, it will help to estimate the cost; if there are grants that become available, we will definitely apply for funding.”

Councillor Holliday pointed out that nearby communities – including Smithers, Houston and Vanderhoof – don’t have recreation master plans.

“I would like to know if they are planning to create one, if they feel that they don’t need one, or if they feel that it’s too expensive to have one,” she said.

Councillor Beach said that Houston, as many other communities, doesn’t see its recreation as a revenue generator.

“They think that’s something their communities deserve,” said Beach.

Director of recreation Dooseon Jung said council needs to define if the recreation master plan will be seen as a “cost-recovery” or if the village will act as a “service provider.”

“If we go for service provider, we can choose to invest in parks, but if we’re trying to be cost-recovery, we will focus on the facility [Lakeside Multiplex] operation,” said Jung.

Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold said this would be a good discussion topic for councillors attending the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in September.

Councillor Beach asked staff to compile a list of green spaces that the village already manages to assist council in future discussions. Village staff will bring that information to council’s next special meeting, which will be held on Aug. 17, 2016.

“We will have a much better understanding of the recreation master plan after the next scheduled meeting,” said Worthing.


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