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Pool, firehall referenda – are you willing to spend the money?

Most people I talk to think that replacing Firehall #1 is a no-brainer but the plan to replace the Four Seasons Pool is a tougher sell.

City residents will go to the polls October 28 to say either ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to the city’s plan to borrow $15 million to replace the firehall and borrow $35 million to replace the Four Seasons Pool.

And give the city credit for making sure residents get the information they need to make a decision. Mayor Lyn Hall and city manager Kathleen Soltis have made themselves available to groups and organizations across the city, there is all kinds of information available online and in print that residents can get their hands on, the city held two digital townhalls last week (which featured an august local media panel and me), and open houses at the proposed locations, so there will be no opportunity for residents to say they weren’t informed.

Most people, I believe, see the firehall as a necessity while the pool, not so much. If you’re younger than 60 years old, or so, and have lived in Prince George all your life, Firehall #1 has always been there, where it is now. Even without a tour, which shows how cluttered and cramped it is, it’s not hard to imagine the building has passed its best-before date.

The pool, isn’t much younger, and has also passed its best-before date. However, with a $35 million price tag, it’s a tougher pill to swallow for taxpayers, who are faced with tax rate increases year-after-year.

And, in case you’re wondering, the pool will see an additional $19.71 per $100,000 of assessed value added onto your tax bill. The firehall will add $8.45/$100,000.

For a property assessed at $300,000, the annual increase on the property taxes would be $84.48.

So the question you have to consider is whether you’re willing to shell out 85 bucks a year for a new pool and new firehall … more or less, depending on your assessment. That’s 17 lattes that you have to give up over the course of a year … I could do that in a month, and probably should now that I think of it.

And the question really is about whether you’re willing to spend the money for these two facilities. There has been lots of discussion about location with some thinking the pool should be attached to the YMCA of Northern B.C. and the firehall located on the other side of the Fraser River.

City manager Kathleen Soltis put a pretty good kibosh on the Y location for the pool at last week’s digital townhall saying that such a partnership wouldn’t provide what the city is looking for. It would result in attaching a new pool to an aging Y building.

The Y, she said, was looking at a combined pool/gymnasium facility in the downtown.

“The capital costs of a project like that would be considerably higher than the capital costs of replacing the Four Seasons Pool,” she said.

The model the YMCA uses for operating pools is different than the city’s in that it uses volunteers and a different pay scale. In addition, she said, there is a concern that the city might be seen to be operating a gym, which would be competing with private sector gyms.

And we should remember that the city went through a public process to determine that most residents, if the Four Seasons Pool is to be replaced, wanted the replacement to be downtown.

As for the firehall being located nearer to the BCR Industrial site, they used statistical data to determine that the Massey Drive location is closer to where most of the fires actually occur.

But, once again, the question voters will have to answer October 28 is whether they are willing to pay for these two new facilities. Don’t get hung up on locations or logistics, it’s all about whether you’re will to pay for them.

There is plenty of information to help you make your decision. Just go to the city website or Facebook page and you’ll find all the information you need. Or watch the two digital townhalls. There local media asked plenty of good questions and you can judge for yourself whether the answers given were satisfactory.

If you’re not sure whether you’re willing to spend the money, do some research and make up your mind. And get out and vote on October 28.

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