Sudbury city council debates raising rec-centre fees

Sudbury city councillors want to ensure all residents can access city recreational facilities, regardless of their income.

In some cases, rates would be raised by hundreds of dollars per year.

Sudbury city councillors want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access the city’s recreational facilities, regardless of their income.

This, at a time when only 10 per cent of Sudburians regularly use city rinks and fields.

Sudbury city councillor Jacques Barbeau

"That’s absolutely shocking," said Jacques Barbeau. "I never would have thought that number is as low as it is."

But shortly after asking staff to draw up a policy to ensure equal access to city recreation programs, councillors faced a proposal to hike the rates at those facilities, including the Rayside-Balfour Workout Centre and the Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre.

In some cases, the rates would be raised by hundreds of dollars per year. The five fitness centres in question lost $376,000 last year.

The proposal for a rate hike concerned Barbeau, who says in one ear he hears calls for accessible public services, and in the other, talk of lower taxes and smaller government.

"It’s a really difficult juggling game we have to play here," he said.

Frances Caldarelli is the city councillor for Ward 10.

Councillor Joe Cimino also pointed out the contradiction.

"We can’t talk the talk and say we’re supporting our youth, we’re supporting recreation … but we’re not putting anything behind what we’re saying," he said.

Possible payment plans

While there was a recommendation the fitness centre fee hikes be spread out over multiple years, city councillor Frances Caldarelli warned against that plan.

"All we’re going to do is make people angry two years in a row," she said.

In the end, council deferred the decision until a later meeting, and voted to have staff go back to the drawing board to determine more options for the city-run gyms.