Sports groups and other residents of Ponoka are going to be paying more in the new year to use sports and recreational facilites.
Rates at the Ponoka Aquaplex and the arena are each increasing by five per cent. Change is also coming to fees for using sports fields.
Wes Amendt, director of community services, stated even with the increase, the pool rates will remain among the lowest in central Alberta. The Aquaplex has seen new programming added and rates have not been changed since 2013, while rates at the arena have not changed since 2014.
In the past, sports field users were charged a seasonal rate. However, because different sports have varying season lengths, Amendt explained the town is switching to a per use rate.
Coun. Carla Prediger questioned Amendt if he had received feedback from sports groups in the community regarding the new per use rate charges. “They all understood the reasoning for going in that direction,” he answered.
The Recreational Rates and Charges Policy was approved at council’s Dec. 13 meeting. Councillors Teri Underhill and Tim Falkiner did not vote in favour.
“Our user groups are struggling,” said Underhill. “If we raise the rates, they’ll have to raise rates.”
“I’m not in favour of raising rates at this time,” she added.
Coun. Sandra Lyon wondered how Ponoka’s facilities and rates are comparable to others across central Alberta, specifically naming Wetaskiwin and Blackfalds, when they do not offer the same level of programming or services.
“Our facilities are a lot older and might take a lot more money to keep them running,” said Coun. Loanna Gulka.
Gulka added, with the town’s lean 2017 budget, there are not a lot of funds at council’s disposal to subsidize rates.
Mayor Rick Bonnett questioned if any program was being implemented to get utilization rates up at the arena. “Can we do something to advertise to try and get some sort of action?”
Amendt said there is a schedule link on the town’s website showing when ice time is booked and when it is not.
He added rec and minor hockey schedules work together, and sometimes the ice is booked and paid for by minor hockey, but it is up to the organization’s scheduler to determine if the ice will actually be used or not.
Prediger said she feels with the empty ice, operational dollars are supporting nothing. “Going forward, what can we be doing next year or even the second half the season to better facilitate that?”
The new rates take effect on Jan. 1. However, the rates being paid by groups for the current winter season will remain at 2016 levels until the next winter.