Non-resident users of Steinbach Aquatic Centre can expect fees to only go up, unless Steinbach city council can successfully strike a deal with its neighbours in the RM of Hanover.
City of Steinbach administration presented council with a range of options at a Tuesday committee meeting, after being tasked by council with examining how a 70 percent cost-recovery model could be developed for the facility.
Three options included increasing class sizes and reducing the number of classes, strictly increasing fees for non-resident users only, or increasing fees for all users.
A fourth option, favoured by administration, would plan to slowly work towards establishing a 70 percent cost-recovery model over a period of four years through a range of fee increases.
Total revenues at the pool in 2018 were approximately $1.1 million, while expenditures totalled about $1.8 million. Over the past four years the pool averaged about 62 percent cost-recovery, slightly lower than the city’s current goal of recouping two thirds of its expenditure costs.
City council did order a public swimming fee increase in April. City manager Troy Warkentin said the pool is on track to recover 63.5 percent of costs this year. He added that visits to the pool are virtually unchanged and have in fact have registered a small increase this year, compared to 2018.
Swimming lesson programs also remain at capacity after council instituted a new policy that Steinbach residents are now permitted to register a day earlier than other users at the beginning of each registration period.
Registration for fall classes at the aquatic centre begins next week.
Over $110,000 is needed for the city to reach its 70 percent recovery target, but council asked administration to hold off on any changes until it arranges to meet with RM of Hanover council.
Mayor Earl Funk said he has received calls and emails of concern from Hanover residents worried about their access to the facility.
"I’ve suggested that they talk to their councillor. Have that councillor start the discussion that we should become regional and then we could drop all this," the mayor said.
About two-thirds of pool registrations are currently non-resident users.
Councillor Susan Penner suggested both the aquatic centre and Jake Epp Library be part of regionalisation discussions.
Councillor Michael Zwaagstra said if a cost-sharing agreement was established, the city could "drop all the distinctions" between Steinbach and RM of Hanover residents.
"If there is no regional approach we have to widen the gap. The non-resident pays more," he said.
"They can have all the perks that our residents have if their municipality contributes."
It was suggested that Hanover be the first target of discussions as the city’s largest neighbour. The city does not, however, currently track where non-resident pool users reside.
Still, Funk maintained he believed a large majority of non-residents are from Hanover. He added that further talks with other neighbouring municipalities could follow.
He said he hoped the two councils could have discussions this fall and have an agreement in place prior to the finalization of the 2020 budget.