Ridge is paying for Pitt rec services

Financial staff to propose a more equitable agreement.

Maple Ridge wants to even out its recreation services partnership with Pitt Meadows.

According to the latest review of the joint parks and leisure services agreement, Pitt Meadows saves $1 million a year by combining resources with Maple Ridge in order to maintain parks and trails, offer programs and run facilities such as Family Recreation Centre and seniors centre.

“Pitt Meadows achieved a zero-per-cent tax increase for their residents,” Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said Tuesday.

“We have to be accountable to our residents.”

“If we can’t offer them something to them, we have to be accountable for every dollar we’re spending,” she added.

“And some of those dollars include us subsidizing this partnership.”

Read said the agreement has many other non-monetary values, but the present council is focused on accountability and transparency.

“We need to be clear to our residents, this is the cost we’re bearing.”

Under the agreement, partnering with Pitt Meadows could cost Maple Ridge an extra $200,000 a year, because some services the latter provides aren’t jointly funded. That number is inexact, however, because it’s equal to the margin of error in the review.

The topic was part of a Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge joint council meeting Tuesday, when politicians agreed to take a closer look at the partnership on March 12.

Read says Pitt Meadows is willing to talk about the joint leisure-services agreement and she wants to look at programs and management.

Each council has seen the Joint Parks and Leisure Services Model Review, written by Professional Environmental Consultants, three times. The final report was delivered in July.

Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker agrees, the agreement could use tweaking, once senior finance staff crunch the numbers.

Under the agreement, while each city pays for entire capital cost for each facility or asset it creates within its borders, the operating costs are split based on population, with Maple Ridge paying 80 per cent and Pitt Meadows paying 20 per cent.

Both cities recognize the advantages of sharing services, but every agreement needs to be adjusted over time, Becker said.

According to the report, based on 2013 numbers, Pitt Meadows doesn’t contribute in three areas: funding for the art gallery in Arts Centre Theatre; paying for the social planning staff in Maple Ridge that often benefits Pitt Meadows; and contributing full-time to the costs of municipal cemeteries.

However, the latter two aren’t part of the agreement.

Becker said financial staff from both cities are exchanging numbers and should bring back a proposal to bring more equity to the agreement.

“If it turns out Pitt Meadows is getting a free ride … on the social services function, that’s not fair and we should have a conversation about that.”

Pitt Meadows is now paying $5,000 yearly for its share in the art gallery expenses, he added.

Kelly Swift, general manager for parks and recreation, said both cities benefit from the agreement.

“What really came to light in this review was how the financial benefits changed from the beginning.”

Twenty years ago, Pitt Meadows didn’t have as many recreational facilities as it does now.

Maple Ridge is in the middle of departmental reviews, which included a review of the work plan for Community Development, Parks and Recreation Services.

That led Read to ask why the recreation master plan, OK’d in 2010, hasn’t had an implementation plan developed to show how new recreation facilities would be paid for over the next decade or two.

Swift said an implementation plan usually accompanies a master plan that sets out the broad goals of the recreation department.

“Typically, you would attach funding when you invest in a significant planning document like that. That’s the purpose in doing the planning,” Swift said.

“It doesn’t mean that dollars come immediate, but you put a strategy in place for some of the priorities out of that plan.”

The recreation master plan anticipated that a second indoor pool, after the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, and would be located in Pitt Meadows at the Family Recreation Centre. However, Pitt Meadows has said it’s no longer interested in building an indoor pool.

A new 25-metre indoor pool would cost at least $30 million.

At Monday’s workshop meeting, Coun. Gordy Robson suggested tearing down the existing Leisure Centre and pool, about to start a $5.5-million renovation, and building a new pool in its place.

 

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