The decision to fund part of Invermere’s new multi-use centre using the Columbia Valley Recreation Service Area tax base is meeting some opposition in Edgewater.
Tammy Tutte, the president of the Edgewater Recreation Society board of directors, is not pleased with the funding formula, that will see 25 per cent of the centre’s capital costs and 25 per cent of its operating costs over the next five years funded by the newly expanded service area, which grew to include Edgewater late last year.
“We agreed to pay into this fund because we were led to believe it would help the rink and ball diamond (in Edgewater),” said Tutte, “but to have this huge amount of money go towards this building in Invermere; if someone put a sheet in front of me and said are you opposed to it, I’d be signing it.”
Prior to Edgewater joining the service area, Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area G director Gerry Wilkie held a community meeting in October 2013 to find out if Edgewater property owners were in favour. Meeting a positive response, he decided to recommend that Edgewater join. But Tutte feels the meeting was held under false pretences.
“At that meeting, it was me who asked the specific question, ‘Does having Edgewater join this tax service have anything to do with the proposal of the new hall in Invermere?’ and the whole panel looked at me straight in the face and said no,” she said. “They said it absolutely has nothing to do with community halls.”
According to Wilkie, the funding formula for the centre had been proposed for the first time just two weeks earlier at a Columbia Valley Directors Meeting by Invermere mayor Gerry Taft and was “simply a concept.”
“At the time, I conferred with Lee-Ann Crane (chief administrative officer for RDEK) who advised me that because it was just a concept, not to bring it up at this meeting, that there will be opportunity for discussion later,” he said. “I was in a lot of turmoil about that. But quite frankly, because it was just a concept, it would be like spreading a rumour.”
Thirty-eight years ago when the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena was established, Edgewater opted out of the original recreation service area, and there was a lot of concern in the valley about it, Wilkie said.
“People in Radium, especially, were really upset that Edgewater was getting a free ride.”
“Finally, after 38 years, I have to make a call about deciding whether or not to bring Edgewater in, then all of a sudden right on top of that, there’s going to be another potential tax. That was my angst,” he admitted.
After the service area’s contribution to the multi-use centre was finalized in May earlier this year, Tutte said she raised the issue yet again at another Edgewater community meeting.
“My question to them was: ‘How can you fund something that you told us specifically that tax base was not to be used for, as in community hall?’ “ she said. “That’s when (Wilkie) said it was just an idea that was brought forward.”
Now, Edgewater property owners will continue to pay into the Edgewater Recreation Society tax (which funds the community hall and the outdoor rink) as well as pay an additional tax for the Columbia Valley Recreation Service Area, she said.
This additional tax works out to about $30 per year for a residential property assessed at $200,000 based on the 2014 tax rate of $0.15 per $1,000 assessment for residential properties, RDEK chief financial officer Shawn Tomlin told The Valley Echo in an email.
“With the May resolution to contribute $125,000 per year for five years to the proposed Multi-Use Arts and Recreation Facility in Invermere, I would expect this will increase by about 20 per cent,” he said.
Whereas maintenance of the rink was previously covered by the Edgewater Recreation Society tax, it will now see approximately $2,000 a year coming from the recreation service area tax, said Tomlin, which matches what the rink has been receiving annually from the recreation society.