By Matthew Liebenberg
or the Southwest Booster
It is going to become more expensive to use aquatic facilities, enrol for art classes or rent ice surfaces in Swift Current due to a variety of rate increases for community facilities.
New rates for the City of Swift Current’s Community Services facilities were approved during a regular council meeting, June 26.
The new facility rates will be in effect from Sept. 1, 2023 to Aug. 31, 2024. These rates exclude golf course fees and cemetery rates, which are reviewed separately.
City General Manager of Cultural and Aquatic Services Melissa Shaw provided details about the new facility rates for 2023-24. She noted it is an ongoing and challenging task to forecast, set and monitor the various facility rates. The intention is to achieve certain recovery rates for different facilities, which is based on revenue targets and a calculation of future operational expenses.
“Operational costs are impacted by several factors, including electricity, gas, water, wages, contractor costs, carbon tax, materials and equipment,” she explained. “Increases are anticipated in facility operational expenses for the upcoming years and therefore have been budgeted in the projections. Revenue projections are based on a regular year’s ability to maintain and increase facility bookings and programming.”
Community Services facilities are split into minimal or non-revenue generating facilities and revenue generating facilities.
“Historically, council had directed the revenue generating facilities to recover 40 per cent of overall total facility operating costs,” she said.
The City considers ball diamonds, tennis courts, outdoor rinks, soccer pitches, beach volleyball courts, park rentals and arts and culture to be minimal or non-revenue generating facilities.
The City’s main revenue generating facilities are the InnovationPlex, Aquatic Centre, S3 Arenas, Lt. Colonel Clifton Centre, Dickson Community Centre, Fairview pool and Kinetic Park. The income at these facilities is mostly generated through user fees.
The actual recovery rate for Community Services revenue generating facilities was 49 per cent in 2022. The budgeted recovery rate for 2023 is 45 per cent and projected to be 46 per cent in 2024. Shaw noted that all rates are not automatically increased by the same percentage, but there is a review of rates for each facility.
For 2023-24 there will be a two per cent rate increase for aquatic facility rentals, camping and extra revenue rentals.
There will be a five per cent rate increase for aquatic general admissions, aquatic programming (with some exceptions), arena ice rates, dry floor surface rates, community garden rentals, all park rentals and art gallery rates.
There will be a seven per cent rate increase for athletic field per player rates and on all rates at the Lt. Colonel Clifton Centre and Dickson Community Centre.
Mayor Al Bridal noted that detailed information about the new facility rates was presented to the Recreation, Parks and Culture Board, which advises the City on parks and recreation services and facilities.
“The big thing for us is the fact that our Recreation Board looked this over and they also agreed that it needed to happen,” he said.
Council approves implementation of double cremation lots:
Council members approved a motion at their June 26 regular council meeting to establish double cremation lots at Mount Pleasant Burial Park.
There is currently only single cremation lots available, but the City identified a need for larger lots.
“We were getting requests from the public before we did the rates in January 2023,” City Parks Manager Michael Newell said after the meeting. “That was where the push came from. … We have a cremation section in Mount Pleasant Burial Park. So what we decided to do was resurvey the existing lots.”
The size of a single cremation lot does not make it feasible to be used for more than one cremation interment.
“So basically, we want to just expand it to go from a four by four to a five by four, just to give us that extra foot to make sure that we can get the two cremations into the one lot without disturbing any of the neighbouring lots,” he said.
The City needs to obtain approval from the provincial government for this change and a formal resolution from council in favour of the change is one of the requirements of the application process.
A surveyor will be hired to do the site work, including the installation of new survey markers for double cremation lots. An amount of $10,000 from the capital maintenance budget is available for this purpose, although the actual cost will be lower. Another amount of $25,000 will be used for the installation of strip foundations and thereafter the double cremation lots will be offered for sale.
City plans to permit daycare centres in commercial districts:
The City plans to make daycare centres an allowed use in areas zoned as a commercial district.
Council members approved a notice of motion at their regular June 28 meeting to advise the public of their intention to amend the City’s zoning bylaw.
Kathy Dand, the City’s development officer for planning and development services, told the meeting that daycare centres are currently only allowed as a permitted or discretionary use in residential zoning districts and as a discretionary use in the central commercial districts.
“With increased government funding available for early learning and child care spaces, the City has received several inquiries about allowing these facilities in other non-residential areas,” she said. “Adding daycare centres as a permitted use in the other commercial districts is not likely to cause any land use conflicts, provided additional development considerations were included with any zoning bylaw amendment.”