An aquatic centre is no longer in 100 Mile House’s immediate future.
At a South Cariboo Joint Committee meeting in early March, the Cariboo Regional District and District of 100 Mile House voted unanimously to drop plans to build an aquatic centre. Margo Wagner, CRD chair and director for Area H Forest Grove and Canim Lake, said the decision wasn’t easy, but is the most economically responsible option.
“Aside from the cost of building a pool, which has gone up astronomically, the cost of maintaining a pool is about $1.5 million a year to operate,” Wagner said. “It’s a whole bunch of money and we just felt it isn’t cost possible right now.”
Wagner said the CRD still plans to go ahead with a referendum about increasing the taxation boundaries on which the pool project originally hinged on. The referendum was delayed to give the CRD more time to engage with the public and address some “serious pushback” Wagner said.
She added the referendum will likely not take place until the summer of 2024, as the CRD is in the midst of organizing another referendum in Quesnel this summer. Wagner said the referendum needs to take place during the summer to allow owners of summer homes to vote on the proposal.
Mayor Maureen Pinkney said the referendum remains important. She noted that currently, people pay for recreation facilities in the South Cariboo either through taxation or recreation cards.
“Recreation cards have quite a great cost of administration and they’re very ineffective. People go to events and don’t have an organized sport where they don’t need a rec pass,” Pinkney said. “So some people are enjoying our sports and recreation without paying.”
Pinkney said she doesn’t want to waste staff time or the public’s money so a referendum will be the best way to address these issues. If the referendum does pass she said they’ll be able to bring more recreation opportunities into the community including, potentially, a pool.
Residents of 100 Mile House have wanted a pool for well over 30 years now with several proposed plans failing due to lack of funds. Wagner said hindsight is 20/20 and perhaps it should have been built years ago, but noted even back then it would have been expensive.
“Whilst it might have been cheaper 11 or 12 years ago it still would have been costly. We have had a lot of new people move into the area and I think if we could get some more industry going it might help,” Wagner said. “Right now, it’s off the table for 100 Mile House.”
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Pinkney noted the dropped aquatic centre proposal was first considered back before the COVID-19 pandemic, recent increases in the cost of living and the permanent closure of the Norbord OSB plant in 2020. She believes that without a new major industry coming to 100 Mile House it will be difficult to fund a pool.
“Everyone knows pools are a great value for the health and well being of all of us, but it still has to be at a cost people can afford,” Pinkney said.
“That’s the struggle right now. We can revisit this at any time but we can’t leave it on the books as a revolving project when we know it’s not going anywhere, currently.”