Ridge setting priorities for recreation projects

Two councillors voted against telling staff to continue the work.

Coun. Bob Masse wanted to clarify how much of the cost the city was willing to pay.

Coun. Bob Masse wanted to clarify how much of the cost the city was willing to pay.

Maple Ridge is plowing ahead with its plan to provide people with more places to play, despite questions about who’s going to pay.

Early next month, council will prioritize the recreation projects it wants to build, from new sports fields to a museum or aquatic centre.

Once the to-do list is complete, a schedule will be set and plans will be made to get the public’s OK to borrow the money to pay for it all.

Two councillors, though, were cautious about costs and voted against telling staff to continue the work.

Coun. Bob Masse wanted to clarify how much of the cost the city was willing to pay.

“I thought we had said we were going ahead on the presumption this was all our money?” Masse asked Coun. Craig Speirs.

“Are you saying that senior government is an important fundamental part of this for you?”

Speirs said the response from senior governments could influence his support.

First, Maple Ridge has to decide what it wants, then it has to lobby senior governments, Speirs said.

“And that will drive my subsequent support.”

Masse and Coun. Gordy Robson both voted against telling staff to continue with prioritizing the projects, setting a schedule and determining a public approval process.

A plebiscite, or an alternative approval process, in which 10 per cent of voters have to vote no to reject a plan or force a vote, likely will take place in the spring or summer.

Robson said other cities get grants or enter partnerships when building major facilities.

“We haven’t arranged for any of that. I don’t think we can proceed without that. I don’t think our taxpayers can afford that.”

He had earlier proposed that Maple Ridge partner with YMCA of Greater Vancouver to build a new pool.

An aquatic centre/wellness, combined with a curling rink could cost up to $70 million. However, a financing strategy proposed by  staff says that the city could spend $110 million over the next four years with a property tax increase of .75 per cent.

Council has also looked at various locations for such facilities, although those haven’t been made public.

“I find that not having a location that’s on a transit line, I find that no call for partnerships or sponsorships, I’ll be unable to support this,” Robson said.

Council defeated a motion by Robson to get staff to take another look at whether it’s worthwhile to do the repairs on the existing Leisure Centre pool, after all.

Repairs to that facility have been put on hold until Maple Ridge decides whether or not it is building a new aquatic centre.

Reconsidering repairs to the Leisure Centre pool “would create a lot of uncertainty,” said Mayor Nicole Read.

“To close the Leisure Centre pool, for any length of time, would create hardship for the community.”

A staff update says there will be “comprehensive” public involvement, using online surveys and workshops, supplemented by a communication plan with regards to the overall recreation facilities plan.

The goal “will be to ensure that citizens have ample opportunity to provide their input given the significance of the potential infrastructure projects.”

Once a location for a possible aquatic centre has been decided, meetings on the issue will be open to the public.