Stakeholders at an Oct. 24 meeting exploring in-kind room and facility rentals at the Revelstoke Community Centre.

Council investigates in-kind concession policy for all recreation facilities

City council has opted for a wider review of city rental fees and in-kind free rentals ahead of a policy review and new bylaw.

Revelstoke city council has opted for a wider review of recreation facility rental fees and in-kind free rentals. The move came after a staff report noted discrepancies between policy and existing practice when it comes to free rentals for non-profit groups.

Although the initial report focused on the Revelstoke Community Centre, on Oct. 25 council opted to have staff report into rental and in-kind free rental practices at all city recreation facilities and report back to council.

In discussion, Coun. Peter Frew said the report showed the wider review was needed. “Perhaps we’re not quite consistent in what we’re doing with various groups to charge fees … at city facilities,” he said “And perhaps we should tighten up on the policy, and perhaps not just with the community centre.” He went on to mention the Revelstoke Forum, the Aquatic Centre and playing fields.

Coun. Chris Johnston concurred, saying the existing policies were “vague” and “unpredictable” and caused confusion for not only recreation department staff, but also the user groups as well.

Coun. Antoinette Halberstadt emphasized the services provided to the community by the clubs were “incalculably valuable.”

A bylaw revision of existing fees and policies is expected before council in the coming weeks. The report, including recommendations, will be presented at the same time.

The decision doesn’t appear to be a move to start charging new fees where they weren’t previously collected, but the scope of the exploration makes it conceivable that exemptions will be adjusted. Exactly how has not yet been spelled out.

On Oct. 24, just under 40 stakeholders representing 22 different community sports, youth and community organizations gathered at the Revelstoke Community Centre for an open house with Parks, Recreation and Culture staff. The Times Review attended a portion of that meeting.

The discussion explored options and models for fees, including caps and percentages. User groups suggested ways the facility fees could work better for them and reduce their exposure to risk when hosting events. It was also noted they leverage outside funding that benefits the city in the end.

They also talked about ways to improve the community centre so that it would be a more attractive, vital place to host events, such as interior improvements or better signage.

City council candidate Jason Roe suggested gathering business community advice on how to attract more events that would be revenue-generators for the community centre, instead of focusing solely on getting more revenue from non-profit users, or redistributing that burden amongst them.

“The city is in more difficult financial circumstances than we used to be,” Parks, Recreation and Culture director Kerry Dawson told the attendees.

Dawson also noted an enhancement committee was working on ways to improve the centre.

Friends of Mount Revelstoke & Glacier executive director Neills Kristensen noted many non-profits were truly providing in-kind benefits back to the community. “We have never made money on any of the events we have put on [at the community centre],” he said.

On Oct. 25, Dawson said she had gathered 10 concrete suggestions from the meeting, which she would include in her staff report. Council was reluctant to put a deadline on that report, which is expected sometime around November.