Council softens tone on rec

Last week council held a meeting intended to set a direction for Burns Lake’s recreation master plan

Last week council held a meeting intended to set a direction for Burns Lake’s recreation master plan.

I must admit I was expecting a meeting with much tougher discussions and maybe some drastic changes to the village’s recreation budget, which has been dealing with a significant increase since the Lakeside Multiplex opened in 2014.

Earlier this year, councillor Michael Riis-Christianson urged council to reduce the department’s budget.

“I don’t believe that we can do business as usual this year,” he said. “Some areas of recreation are just not sustainable.”

Except for a discussion on wages, however, last week’s meeting took a much softer tone.

The discussion on wages took place because the recreation department’s wages went over budget in 2016. Although the budget for recreation wages was $154,656, the actual amount spent in 2016 was $167,000. That’s $12,344 more than the projected expense.

Council did not openly discuss why the wages went over budget. However, councillor Susan Schienbein asked council to adopt a budget policy where any increase to wage budgets would have to be approved by council.

“If I did that [go over budget] in my job, where I have to manage some budget, I’d be in trouble,” said Schienbein. “There are certain accounts that couldn’t go over budget because there could be some issues there.”

Apart from that discussion, council simply decided on the general aspects of the recreation master plan such as its scope and who would do it.

Council decided that the recreation master plan should first focus on the area which includes the Lakeside Multiplex, Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena, curling rink, Spirit Square, tennis courts, Radley Beach and municipal campgrounds – as opposed to including municipal parks, hiking trails, mountain biking and cross-country skiing sites.

Council also discussed the importance of setting money aside for the replacement of recreation facilities. In addition, council discussed the need to have a better understanding of what the community wants when it comes to recreation by conducting a survey. Furthermore, council decided to invite the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to help develop Burns Lake’s recreation master plan.

Council did not discuss how much the village will contribute toward its recreation department starting next year, nor there were any talks of cutbacks. If there will be any significant changes to the village’s recreation budget at some point, that remains to be seen.

For the sake of this town and the people who live here, I really hope that council finds a way to keep supporting our recreation facilities without reducing their services.

I completely agree with a letter that council recently received from local resident Cory Norman. The letter says that general maintenance and replacement of equipment should be an encouraged standard of practice.

“If the machines do not perform adequately, it will likely have a snowball effect on the gym,” she wrote. “People will complain, they will not use the machines and yes, memberships will decline further.”