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County unhappy with town rec funding request

Westlock County’s reeve is “disappointed” with the town’s request for additional recreation funding, he said following a closed-door discussion at the May 24 council meeting.

Westlock County’s reeve is “disappointed” with the town’s request for additional recreation funding, he said following a closed-door discussion at the May 24 council meeting.

Charles Navratil said not much came out of the discussion, which followed a May 10 request from the Town of Westlock for the county to reconsider its recreation funding in light of county residents usage rates of town facilities.

“This isn’t a hot burning issue as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “This is something we’ll be talking about during the year, but it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”

Council’s discussion about the issue was limited mostly to trying to get the facts and figures associated with operating costs presented while the Spirit Centre project was initially being proposed, he added.

At the May 10 county council meeting, town Coun. Sheila Foley made a presentation asking the county to reconsider recreation funding for all of the town facilities.

She used the aquatic centre as an example, citing the fact that while more than half the users are county residents, the town pays the vast majority of the facility’s $1 million operating budget.

“I’m really disappointed in their request. I’m really disappointed in the facts and figures they came up with,” Navratil said of the presentation.

County council declined to discuss the issue at that meeting, instead putting it on the agenda for May 24, when the discussion was held in private.

Ultimately, Navratil said, the issue comes down to volunteers.

The county’s recreation budget is as low as it is because the county relies heavily on volunteers to keep its recreation facilities going, he said.

The town’s recreation budget is as high as it is because the town has paid staff taking care of the facilities.

“Small communities in the outlying areas, they take ownership and take responsibility and they do these things,” Navratil said. “Of course recreation dollars from the county aren’t going to that because we have a bunch of volunteers that take care of all of that.”

He used the Linaria arena as an example. When it comes time to put the ice in, volunteers get together and make it happen because they want to keep that facility in their community.

“That’s the difference with The town of Westlock and our hamlets. The Town of Westlock, nobody steps up and takes ownership because it’s the town, and they pay for everything,” Navratil said.