Maple Ridge councillors concerned about recreation agreement costs

Maple Ridge pays for 80 per cent of the operating costs of shared facilities, while Pitt Meadows pays 20 per cent.

Maple Ridge councillors want to ensure their taxpayers don’t pay for an unbalanced share of Pitt Meadows’ recreation services now and in the coming years.

The joint leisure services agreement is being reviewed, in which Maple Ridge pays for 80 per cent of the operating costs of shared facilities, such as the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, while Pitt Meadows pays 20 per cent.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie wanted to know if Maple Ridge’s contribution was appropriate.

“If we’re paying another quarter per cent of taxes to subsidize another community’s recreation, we need to know that.

“And we need to have that conversation.”

Consultant Brian Johnston said the final review will provide those numbers. And early analysis suggests that Maple Ridge isn’t subsidizing the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district, one of the partners.

When it comes to municipalities, both save between half a million and a million dollars a year from the agreement.

Both communities benefit, but Pitt Meadows likely saves the most, he added.

Couns. Mike Morden and Bob Masse wondered if the agreement would work in the future, as Maple Ridge grows, while Pitt Meadows’ population would peak at about 21,000.

Johnston said that ratio could change so that Maple Ridge pays more than 80 per cent of the operational costs, to reflect Maple Ridge’s population growth, and may reach the point where the agreement is no longer worthwhile.

“We’ll still get tagged with the capital cost bill and, yet, Pitt Meadows will get the benefit,” Morden said.

Under the current agreement, each municipality pays the entire capital costs of facilities in their respective municipalities, while sharing the operating costs.

Johnston said many such agreements between cities don’t last as long as the agreement between Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

“Very few have lasted over 20 years.”

One part of the agreement is that each party can opt out of participating in a project.

But anytime that happens, it weakens the agreement, said Johnston.

“It’s almost an all or nothing proposition.”

Pitt Meadows last year approved spending $2,000 to study the feasibility of building an indoor pool. The city’s long-term capital plan anticipates constructing an indoor pool by 2017.

Mayor Ernie Daykin suggested a new funding arrangement could see Maple Ridge share in the capital cost of Pitt Meadows’s  indoor pool, in return for which Pitt Meadows would pay 50 per cent of operating costs, instead of 20 per cent.

Maybe there’s a creative way of helping people in the area.

“If it’s a dumb idea, just cross it off and forget about it.”

Johnston will now prepare a draft report for council.