Maple Ridge has its list of play projects

Maple Ridge has its list of play projects

$55-million borrowing bylaw being written for fall

Are you OK paying another $60 on your property taxes – if Maple Ridge gets two new sports fields at Thomas Haney, a new ice rink at Planet Ice, a new Albion Community Centre and a new outdoor pool?

If the idea gets taxpayer approval, that’s how much taxes will jump on an average home, a year for seven years, in order to borrow $55 million to pay for it all.

Maple Ridge council, in July, decided that the public will have a say on the above projects, as well as renos to Hammond Community Centre, a new track at Maple Ridge secondary, part of the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre improvements, upgrades to the Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club and two new parks in Silver Valley, after months of debate and consultation.

Staff now are writing a borrowing bylaw to bring to council in September. Included within that $55 million is $6 million for a new outdoor pool at Thomas Haney secondary, a project that council later added to the wish-list of rec features.

Coun. Gordy Robson said councillors compromised to reach the $55-million amount. Some wanted to double that, which he says would have led to tax increases of $500 a year, as well as public opposition and the defeat of the projects.

Once the proposal goes to the public this fall via the alternative approval process, “I think it will be come clearer for them [the public] because it will have the numbers assigned for it,” Robson said.

Costs for each of the following break down:

• $25 million – new arena at Planet Ice;

• $10 million – new Albion Community Centre, 104th Avenue;

• $10 million – two artificial sports fields at Thomas Haney secondary;

• $4.5 million – two new mini-parks in Silver Valley, and upgrades to Hammond Community Centre and Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club;

• $3.5 million – balance of renovations to Maple Ridge Leisure Centre for new changerooms and lobby;

• $2.5 million – upgrading Maple Ridge secondary track.

Total costs are about $55 million. However, about $6 million can be drawn from savings, reducing the total borrowed to $49 million.

That would be paid for by a .35-per-cent cumulative tax increase for seven years. After seven years, people would be paying another $50 a year on an average home valued at $500,000. That average price includes condos and townhouses.

However, if council decides to add the new outdoor swimming pool to the list, the total cost would jump back up to $55 million. That would work out to another $10 on to the tax bill after seven years, because the pool would be separately funded.

Robson is comfortable with the amount that has to be borrowed, although he’d rather not have to go into debt.

“But we need these facilities.”

Council’s July decision, which wrapped up the recreation infrastructure process, also included the scrapping of an indoor aquatic centre, a covered stadium and a museum and cultural centre, which would have doubled the cost.

That bothers Coun. Craig Speirs, who says all of the projects could have gone to the alternative approval process, in which 10 per cent of the voters are required to reject the borrowing.

As a result, the public won’t be able to say either yes or no to the other ideas.

“I just think we have to trust the public, and we didn’t by taking the options off the table,” he said.

“It’s just so frustrating.”

He also wonders how an outdoor pool got into the mix.

“It’s had no consultation. It wasn’t on the list, anywhere.” He does think, though, that the outdoor pool will be built. But “what we needed was an enclosed indoor pool.”

Council decided to start the process for an outdoor pool in August, after initially rejecting it.

Speirs also disagrees with the claim that councillors make about not wanting to burden future generations of taxpayers with debt.

“That’s just fake, fake, fake politics.”

What others on council are saying is they don’t want to burden present voters, Speirs said.

While council earlier decided to abandon an indoor pool in July, a month later in August, it told staff to create a year-long consultation process for an indoor aquatic centre.

The burden on taxpayers for the new facilities could be eased based on a July 11 report, which says that money that’s now going to pay for the town centre buildings could be re-allocated to the recreation projects, once the town centre loan is paid off in 2027.

But Robson said public approval may be required before that money is diverted and assigned to other projects.

Former Maple Ridge councillor Mike Morden pointed out the previous council approved $5.5 million to repair the leisure centre pools. The current council, though, decided to delay that project, while a new indoor pool was being considered, then resumed it once the urgency of repairs was apparent.

“Your council, who have been through three business planning cycles, continues to alter the rec plan, and still hasn’t gone to the public to seek approval for the bigger ticket items! Why? Because they just keep mucking with the shopping list and the budget,” Morden said.