Residents vote down rink tax: so what’s next for the curling club?

An information meeting in the curling rink prior to voting day.

by LAURA KEIL

Valemount and area residents have narrowly voted down a proposal to support the Valemount Curling Club, leaving the club’s future in limbo.

The Regional District of Fraser Fort George released unofficial results Saturday showing 124 voted in favour of the new tax and 161 voted against. Official results will be released Wed. Oct. 4th, after the Goat’s presstime (check our website for updates).

“We are of course very disappointed with the results, and will be meeting this week to decide our next steps,” said Korie Marshall, a curling club member and Chair of the Steering Committee for the Valemount Curling Club Service.

Residential properties would have been on the hook for $13.40 per $100,000 of assessed property value and commercial properties would have paid $32.83 per $100,000.

The non-profit club has been struggling for several years due to high expenses and limited volunteers. In 2014, it approached the regional district to help find a solution with their ice plant. The District then approved a feasibility study.

The building dates back to 1991 and the curling rink requires roughly $125,000 to replace the ice plant in order to continue operating, the club says.

In the assent vote, the District asked Valemount-area taxpayers whether or not they agreed to take on the curling arena as a taxable service to pay for ongoing operating expenses of roughly $65,000 per year.

The club has been financed thus far by the non-profit through user fees, fundraising, grants and liquor sales. Last year’s expenses totalled roughly $23,500, with revenues approx. $25,000.

The building sits on Village of Valemount-owned land (the club has a 30-year lease). In a presentation to Council Sept 12th, Marshall said, given a no vote, the building will likely become the Village’s asset. Without money to pay their property taxes, Marshall says the building will be forfeited to the Village of Valemount.

Marshall says the Village owning and/or operating the arena would likely mean higher expenses and less flexibility, though didn’t elaborate on this possibility.

Marshall has said the curling club is suffering from “volunteer burn-out” and will decide at a meeting this week on how to proceed. She says the likely scenario is that the club will shut down.

“Without a miracle, we’ll likely be closing the building,” she said.

The club has roughly 30 members, but Marshall says they serve several hundred. Last winter, she says they held two bonspiels, had twice-weekly curling with a dozen or so coming out each night. They also had curling lessons for children. The club typically hosts a handful of dances and special events throughout the year as well.

According to the permissive tax exemption application submitted to the Village this year, the club’s largest bills were for power and propane, with $5593.79 going to BC Hydro and $2444 spent on propane. Other expenses like liquor & bar ($5500) were recouped through sales for a small net gain of $500.