Turnout for the advanced polls on the community complex upgrades was steady. (Photo by John Boivin)

Turnout for the advanced polls on the community complex upgrades was steady. (Photo by John Boivin)

Two sides far apart as referendum on Castlegar rec complex looms

Small group of voters in rural area may determine outcome of $32 million project

Residents of Castlegar and the surrounding area will go to the polls on Saturday to vote on enhancements to the Castlegar Community Complex.

Voters are being asked to approve a $32 million plan to build a new ice sheet for competitive sports, create a community “social hub”, enhance the pool and weight rooms, and build an elevated track for indoor running.

“I’m feeling great, there’s been a lot of work, a lot of time put in by staff and the community,” says Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff. “It’s a great project and really needs to go forward because it’s the future of the community.”

What voters are essentially being asked to do is approve a tax hike to pay for the new facility.

LINK: The referendum question is ugly, but necessary

The RDCK says while improving the facility will cost about $32.3 million, they plan to find $10 million in grants and support from other government before starting work, leaving the total borrowing at $22 million.

The RDCK estimates that borrowing will cost about .481 cents per $1,000 of property value. In other words, a person with a $300,000 home will pay an extra $144.30 annually.

“You need to put it in perspective,” says Chernoff. “If it’s $12 a month, it’s not a lot of money, look at the other amenities you have in your home — the television. We know there’s going to be an increase but there’s going to be a benefit to the community, that makes the community healthier.”

But for some, it’s just too much.

“Are we really willing to accept a proposal that is going to hurt a large segment of our Community?,” asked Cindy Codie, on the Castlegar Podium Facebook page. “We are better than this proposal, we are and we deserve better too.”

“Low income people stand to lose whatever they have and actually become homeless.,” added Nina Voykin in a comment. “VOTE NO to extra expenditures of the complex!”

Past surveyshave shown general support for improving the recreation complex. A survey in December 2017 showed 62 per cent of residents would support the improvements, known as “Option B”, while 38 per cent would not.

General support, however, may not be enough for the project to get the go-ahead. A small minority could veto the proposal.

In March, project proponents lost an important vote at an RDCK board meeting. Instead of a simple majority of all voters in Castlegar and area, the voting will be counted as three different polls — one for the City of Castlegar, and one for RDCK Areas I and J each. If any of the individual areas vote against the project, the whole proposal is defeated.

That has everyone watching Area I. Part of that rural area, which includes Glade, Tarrys, Pass Creek and other outlying communities, faces a larger possible tax increase than the rest of the areas. That’s because those residents, through the vagaries of past votes on upgrading the community complex, pay less taxes now on the facility than the other areas.

There are 1,800 voters in Area I, out of 9,900 total electors.

If turnout for the referendum runs the typical 30 per cent, that means 600 people may decide the fate of the project — and only 301 of those would be needed to vote “No”.

Results of the vote should be available by 9:30 Saturday evening. Castlegar News will publish the results on our Facebook page as they come available.

Voting details

To vote in the referendum, residents must be 18 years of age, Canadian citizens, residents of B.C. for six months, and have lived 30 days in the Castlegar and district voting areas.

Voting on Saturday will take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Qualified voters can cast their ballot at:

Area J: Ootischenia Community Hall

Robson Community Hall

Area I: Tarrys Community Hall

Pass Creek Community Hall

City of Castlegar, Area I and Area J: Community Complex

 

One of many anti-complex cartoons created by Andy Popoff on the Castlegar Podium Facebook page.

One of many anti-complex cartoons created by Andy Popoff on the Castlegar Podium Facebook page.