I’d like to thank Nicki Forman for her letter in the Goat last week, bringing up some important questions regarding the upcoming vote on the Curling Club service. I agree with her – I too hope the voters take this issue seriously and try to inform themselves, and come out and vote on September 30th (or at the advanced vote on Sept 20th).
I think it’s appropriate that the Regional District accepts a reasonable proposal that meets certain conditions, and puts it out for us to vote on – I think that is the very definition of democracy. But the Regional District has not been promoting the service, only giving information about the proposal, and the vote, as they are required to do by provincial legislation.
Should each of us do our own research on the economic viability and social need of any proposal? I fully believe we should, and I encourage everyone to look at the study, and to ask questions if you think we’ve missed something. That is the purpose of the public meetings that are required before a vote like this.
Mrs. Forman has a long list of expectations of what should be presented at public meetings, as is her right. The Curling Club has and continues to try to answer those questions and expectations, but please remember, the Club is run solely by volunteers, and many of us are burned out and we may not be up to the task of meeting her strict requirements for financial statements, business plans, projections, audits and reviews. We’d like to get there, and we plan to, if we can survive this very trying time. We would appreciate some help from someone who is as knowledgeable of finances as Mrs. Forman, and I’m sure she recognizes that even those with the most solid plans need a little help sometimes – her company received almost a quarter of a million dollars from the federal and provincial governments just a few years ago, to help train one third (40) of their employees, as stated in a government news release. That was our tax dollars too, and although I might have voted in favour of that proposal, I didn’t get a chance.
The Curling Club has been struggling, both financially (that is why we recently started asking the Village for property tax exemptions, and why we got a grant to switch our lights to LED), and with volunteer burnout. This may be our last opportunity to keep this facility alive and available to the community. We need to replace our ice plant, and there are no grants available to us to do that. But we have worked hard with staff at the Regional District over the past 3 years to come up with a plan that will keep the Club open, and keep the cost to you, the taxpayer, as low as possible.
Our plans do not include a new or inflated source of revenue, we do not intend to be competition for other facilities in the community, either non-profit or private. We hope to continue to be an option that is available, when nothing else will suit – and we know there is a scarcity of usable indoor community spaces in the Valemount area.
The budget we are asking for in the Feasibility Study will cover the minimums needed for upkeep and operation of the building. We may not need that full amount, as we will continue to do the fundraising that we’ve been doing all along, but this budget will give us the assurance that we can make it through a season before we start – we need to know we can pay our power bills and property taxes, and at the moment, those are very big question marks.
As to the moral issue of whether you want your tax dollar to support a facility that is licensed, you of course must answer that yourself. The Curling Club in McBride is also licensed, and supported by their taxes, and we’ve seen many expanded opportunities for alcohol sales because of recent changes to BC’s liquor licensing. As with most licensed events, our lounge is a way for the Club to make money, and we don’t intend to change that, either by promoting it more (which would create competition), or by cutting back (which would lose money for us).
The question of how the votes are considered should go to the Regional District and the Elections Officer, but as I understand it, it is just like voting for Council or your Area H Director. A failure to vote does not count as anything; it is simply the majority of the votes cast that will decide the outcome.
How else might your tax dollar be needed in the future, and how will that affect your property taxes? Mrs. Forman raises great questions here, and I would hope we continue to get a chance to vote on proposals, as we do in this case.
What are the consequences if the vote is defeated? The Club will likely have to close its doors, and all of the other activities and opportunities we’ve been developing and working towards will also be lost. It won’t be an obvious loss of jobs, as we are all currently volunteers. But I strongly believe it will be a significant impact on the quality of life we can offer here in Valemount, currently and in the future. Curling has been in Valemount since the 1960’s, and while we don’t currently have the numbers like back in our hey-day, curling is on the upswing here in Valemount, as well as nationally and around the world.
Mrs. Forman says that it has been easy for this referendum vote to be considered and promoted. We started with a request to the Regional District back in 2014, signed by 131 residents of Valemount and the surrounding area. I know how much work the Club and Regional District staff have put into it, ensuring we’ve considered all the options, and trying to address all the possible issues. At every step along the way, the Regional District Board has carefully considered the reports from staff and the Steering Committee. The Board has accepted the feasibility study, and passed first readings of the proposed bylaws in order to get to this point. Valemount Council has also considered the proposal, and has tentatively approved turning the land over to the Regional District, if the vote says yes to the proposal. It has not been easy, but I certainly do agree the vote should be taken seriously, and I hope all voters will educate themselves and come out and vote.
Valemount resident, and chair of the Curling Club Steering Committee