Pitt Meadows council pans park fee hikes

Maple Ridge supports hike but Pitt Meadows says rates charged are unaffordable

The rental rate for the South Bonson Community Centre is $126 per hour.

The rental rate for the South Bonson Community Centre is $126 per hour.

A request to hike parks fees by 10 per cent and charge non-profit groups a fee to use facilities was denied by Pitt Meadows council.

Parks staff sought the changes after determining fees for parks and recreational facilities in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows were below the regional average.

Both Maple Ridge council and the Parks and Leisure Commission endorsed the fee increases, but the hikes were rejected by Pitt Meadows at last week’s committee meeting.

“I think we should be for the community,” said Coun. Tracy Miyashita, relating how she found it was cheaper to book an event at a private golf course.

Instead of charging 16 different fees, the parks department has condensed them to five. For the first time, however, local non-profit groups will be charged a fee for renting meeting rooms.

For the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, staff are recommending five per cent increase. If approved, the youth or senior rate will increase from $3.71 to $3.90 and family rate from $9.94 to $10.44.

For the Pitt Meadows recreation centre, staff have recommended a five per cent increase in the child rate and a 10 per cent increase for youth and seniors.

If approved, the child rate will increase from $2.48 to $2.61 and the youth or senior fee from $3.20 to $3.52.

In a report to council, parks department business manager Danielle Pope noted that although 10 per cent may seem aggressive, the rates will continue to remain below the current regional average.

Pope added that staff will most likely bring back a similar rate increase next year to catch up with fees charged by other municipalities.

If the fee increases are adopted for 2014, admission revenue will increase by a projected $17,000, and rental revenue will go up by $20,000. Over three years, $8,000 of the projected revenue will come from non-profit groups.

The prospect of continued fee hikes didn’t sit well with Pitt Meadows council, which believes the current rates are too high.

“We need to start showing why the costs are so high,” said Coun. Gwen O’Connell, who was shocked that the rental rate for the South Bonson Community Centre is $126 per hour.

“At the end of the day, these are our residents who are paying the bills.”

Mayor Deb Walters wants the parks department to find other ways to fund the programs and facilities it runs.

“We can’t just keep raising the rates,” Walters added.

Since the fee increases were rejected by Pitt Meadows council, parks and leisure services staff will have to return with another pitch.

“Council indicated that they would like to ensure that the proposed new rates for halls and meeting rooms are not only competitive in the market place, but that they are also affordable for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows citizens to enjoy them,” said director of parks and facilities David Boag.

Parks staff will return to council at a later date with a comparison of rates charged by private facilities.