by EVAN MATTHEWS
The Valemount Curling Club Society wants to tap into taxpayers to keep its doors open and upgrade its facilities.
Valemount could see an assent-vote (formerly called a referendum) soon if the regional district decides to go ahead with it at its June meeting.
The Curling Club Society currently operates the facility and is funded from membership fees, fundraising and revenue from events.
The proposed taxable service area (the region taxed for the service) for the Curling Club would be identical to the service area for the arena, according to the regional district.
The additional tax would pay for operational expenses and provide capital funding for the aging ice plant, according to the feasibility study recently conducted by the regional district.
The annual operating cost is expected to be roughly $64,350, according to the report, which includes the Curling Club’s repayment of loans to the RDFFG.
The cost estimates translate to a residential tax rate of $13 per $100,000 of assessment, according to the report.
“The Curling Club has been struggling financially with operating the Valemount Curling Club facility, as well as how to fund repairs to an aging building and ice plant,” the feasibility study reads.
The study outlines four different options for a taxable service, all of which involve the regional district taking on ownership of the building, according to the report.
The estimated value of the building is currently $1,400,000, according to the report.
Two of the options look at connecting the Canoe Valley Recreation Centre’s arena ice plant to the Curling Club, while the other two options involve the installation of a new ice plant, which Curling Club Steering Committee Member Korie Marshall says would be the cheaper option.
“Connection between the two buildings can be risky,” says Marshall.
“It gives us a lot more flexibility too — because we’re operating the club — we don’t need to call (RDFFG) staff to let us in or lock up behind us or anything,” she says.
Of the study’s four options, the steering committees’ preferred option involves the regional district owning the facility, the Valemount Curling Club operating the facility, and replacing the current ice plant with a more environmentally friendly Freon–based ice plant, without connecting to the arena.
In this preferred option, there would be a capital cost of $284,340 to replace the ice plant.
“This option is the most cost effective, least disruptive to the Curling Club and the Canoe Valley Recreation Centre, most environmentally friendly, and gives the Curling Club autonomy in running the facility,” the feasibility study reads.
The RDFFG and Curling Club Steering Committee held a public information meeting May 8, 2017, presenting key details of the study including the benefitting service area, method of taxation, as well as capital and operating costs.
“Some people brought up concerns with a little bit of misinformation. Sometimes you don’t know how to get the answers to people if you don’t know what the questions are going to be,” she says, noting a person who mentioned raising membership fees for the Curling Club as a viable way to increase income,” — Korie Marshall, curling club steering committee member
At the meeting, some people expressed concern about the lack of detail regarding the club’s annual operating budget, whether or not grants could be secured annually, and the uncertainty around exactly what level taxpayers would be on the hook for — in a worst case scenario — if the Club is ever in a spot where it can no longer maintain the facility.
“Some people brought up concerns with a little bit of misinformation,” says Marshall.
“Sometimes you don’t know how to get the answers to people if you don’t know what the questions are going to be,” she says, noting a person who mentioned raising membership fees for the Curling Club as a viable way to increase income.
Marshall says after hearing the suggestion and looking at raising the membership fees — while it’s something the club is going to do — upping the membership fees will not help upgrade the facilities nor cover the annual operating costs. She says the club has around 30 members.
The regional district board, to date, approved $10,000 of expenditures for the feasibility fund, though to date only $5,296.42 has been spent, with largest expense being the hiring of an engineer to evaluate the condition of the building.
The Curling Club will require additional funding for assent-vote expenses, according to the district.
The facility was built primarily with grant funding, donations, and by volunteers in 1991 and was built for the sole purpose of housing a curling rink, according to the study, and The Curling Club has a 30-year lease (expiring in 2040) for the land with the Village of Valemount that gives the responsibility of all operating and capital costs to the Curling Club.