Maple Ridge council now wants to hear what residents have to say before it gets down to the nitty-gritty of planning new recreation facilities.
Instead of council setting its own list of recreation projects, then getting public feedback – the public now will review a draft list of projects. Feedback from that will decide which projects go to a vote on whether to borrow the money to build them.
“I think we’re at the point where we really need to bring the public in,” said Mayor Nicole Read.
She added that she wants public feedback to help council make its decisions.
“It’s difficult to say ‘this’ or ‘that.’ Right now, we’re quite far behind. We need quite a number of amenities in the community.”
Read liked the public process involved with the Albion community centre design earlier this year.
“It puts so much energy around the project and the community’s ideas were so great. I’m really excited to see what they bring back with this.”
Monday, council told staff to write a draft building schedule and finance plan for the city’s proposed new recreation projects. A staff report says that feedback from the public then will be used “to determine which projects to put forward for public approval for borrowing.”
The process is expected to take place sometime this year.
The approach differs from what council considered a month ago, when it wanted to set recreation priorities, then get public input.
“Most of us agree that we have to involve the public in this and we can’t treat this $110 million like a Christmas fund,” said Coun. Gordy Robson.
The $110 million is the approximate amount that could be borrowed over four years to build the projects under a sample strategy included in this year’s budget.
Robson said council should be using available funding from senior governments and partnerships to determine which projects to build. He still wants to partner with the YMCA to build a new indoor pool, although he isn’t sure the rest of council agrees.
When it comes to building a new museum or cultural centre – a project planned a decade ago, but unfunded – Robson said he’d only support it if there was senior government help paying 80 per cent of the costs.
“As far as I’m concerned, projects like that are beyond our budget unless we have senior government help.”
Read said building a new museum or archives centre is a challenging issue, but “I think there’s a lot of people in the community that really value that.”
Coun. Bob Masse expects the list of projects will have the approximate costs of each to help people decide what they want.
A new swimming pool-wellness centre, combined with a new curling rink, could ring in at $70 million, with yearly operating costs of $2 million.
A new 5,000-seat sports stadium and fields could cost $20 million, and two new ice rinks – $25 million.
Masse also wanted to confirm that the motion doesn’t mean council is putting a new swimming pool at the top of the list.
But administration could come back with a recommendation saying that a new swimming pool and wellness centre should be built first, said chief administrator Ted Swabey.
A new swimming pool was noted as the “highest priority” in last month’s report.
If staff make such a recommendation, the public would still be giving its input, he added.
Council is looking at proposed “bundles” of projects that could be built and operated simultaneously to save money. For example, energy from the cooling required for a new curling rink could be used to heat the water of a new swimming pool. A proposed new museum could be paired with a new community theatre.
Coun. Craig Speirs said the bundles need to be reviewed.
One is to convert the present Golden Ears Winter Club curling rink into a hockey arena, then build another rink to create two new sheets of ice in Albion.
But Speirs said the city should just build one ice rink.
“Settling on one for now would save a substantial amount of money,” while increasing ice time in Maple Ridge by 50 per cent.
“That’s the type of refinement of these bundles that we need to undertake.”
Read asked if there would be an opportunity for neighbourhoods that don’t have rec features, such as parks or playgrounds, to make their case.
“Will there be an opportunity for that level of consultation?” she asked, adding that could complicate the process.
Recreation general manager Kelly Swift said the consultation will involve both neighourhoods and the community at large, which would also comment on that being sought for individual neighbourhoods.
“I think it’s exciting for the community to be involved in fleshing this out a bit more,” said Read.
A staff report from March says “it is important to make a timely decision,” on whether Maple Ridge will or will not build a new swimming pool, so that staff can decide what to do with the aging Maple Ridge Leisure Centre pool, which needs $6 million in repairs.