There may finally be some improvements at the Castlegar and District Community Complex (CDCC) if a grant application is approved by the provincial government.
The Castlegar Recreation Commission’s (CRC) application is the latest effort in a series of attempts to revitalize the facility starting as far back as 2014 with the development of a master plan for the facility.
The CDCC is operated by the Regional District of Central Kootenay and the CRC consists of directors for Areas I and J as well as representatives from the City of Castlegar.
Improvements to the facility have been divisive across the region with voters in Area I of the RDCK voting down a $22-million project in a 2018 referendum. Voters in the City of Castlegar and Area J approved the project in the referendum.
A 2019 grant application for a $17-million upgrade was rejected by the province.
The project currently on the table is a scaled-back version with a price tag of about $5.58 million and 73 per cent of the cost ($4.09 million) would be covered by the grant. The remaining $1.49 million will come from reserves or additional grants.
The project includes $1.9 million of items deemed necessary — demolition of a condemned storage area, repairs to the arena roof, new arena dressing rooms and a new storage area.
It also includes $3.26 million for fitness and wellness upgrades — reception area improvements, change room/fitness entry reconfiguration and fitness centre renovations and expansion.
The final item is $368,000 for arena seating improvements.
The plan was unanimously approved by all members of the CRC.
Castlegar city council approved a motion to support the grant application at a special council meeting Sept. 8. All but one of the council members — Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff — voted in favour of the motion.
Those voting in favour of the motion shared the sentiment that although the plan was not perfect, it was time to move forward and get something done at the CDCC.
They also liked that the project would not require a tax increase.
“We have the opportunity to apply for a grant on a scaled-down project that will help us get to our end goals of having a better facility for the community,” said councillor Florio Vassilakakis.
Councilor Maria McFaddin added, “As I have travelled … what I have learned is that for a city our size, our complex is really outdated and not very good. We need to do something.”
The items chosen for the project reflect the results of a 2017 survey that asked area residents to prioritize the type of improvements they would like to see at the facility.
At the time, 81 per cent of respondents put fitness/wellness improvements as the top priority and 69 per cent put those improvements as a priority within the next five years.
An indoor walking track was also on the drawing board. But while it was still ranked high on the survey, it was less popular than the above option, so was cut from this project proposal.
Councillor Bergen Price, who also chairs the CRC, said, “This project is really simple — we have our identified needs we all agreed on, we have the cost structure and we have the grant we need to apply for and we have the reserves to be able to make payment against this [for the remaining portion of the project].”
Heaton-Sherstibitoff said she was against the project because of what she was hearing from residents.
“They don’t want us to move ahead on this in uncertain times,” she said.
She also brought up the contentious issue that a portion of Area I (north of Jenissa Road) doesn’t pay for the fitness and pool portions of the complex.
“People in Castlegar are feeling they are going to be burdened with costs that should be incurred with Area I,” said Heaton-Sherstibitoff. “We need to get that resolved.”
Vassilakakis agreed that resolving the regional divide over who pays for what should be a priority.
“We as a group need to be on the same page, we can’t be fighting internal battles.”
Councillor Dan Rye, who has sat on the CRC for many years, agreed a resolution with Area I is needed but cautioned, “The process of getting something changed in the regional district with municipal affairs [is difficult] — they don’t want to see past agreements ripped up.”
The RDCK board is expected to approve submitting the application at its Sept. 17 meeting.
The grant application deadline in Oct. 1, but the commission does not expect to hear back from the province for many months.