It was a case of sink or swim at the August 28 committee meeting of the Department of Community and Leisure Services in Humboldt.
A delegation made up of 10 women and two men brought a petition with 353 signatures to the meeting. These men and women use the Humboldt Aquatic Centre (HAC) regularly, attending Aquacise classes or lane swimming. They are protesting the recent increase in user rates at the pool.
“We, the undersigned, request that the City of Humboldt and the Department of Leisure Services seriously reconsider the previously implemented fee increase prior to a moratorium for review,” the petition reads, “and strive for a considerably more moderate increase which will not spurn people from using the Humboldt Aquatic Centre in the future.”
The City implemented new rates on July 30, causing a stir amongst the two groups the rates affected the most. The ladies who attend aquacise complained to management, and unanimously decided to take action by creating a petition that they would bring to the committee at its next scheduled meeting.
In the meantime, the former pool rates were reinstated while a review was conducted.
After the members of the delegation had spoken at the committee meeting, Mayor Malcolm Eaton admitted that he and council hadn’t been aware of the facility’s plan to increase the rates.
“I think we missed this significant increase when it went through,” Eaton said. “Paul (Reist – lane swimmer) phoned me one morning about it, and said it’s a huge increase. I told councillors and staff and all of a sudden, we’re all shaking our heads.”
Eaton said he thought some valid points had been made about the increase, and some good ideas brought forward by the petitioners such as creating a yearly pass or a leisure pass, a format many aquatic centres have in place.
“I don’t disagree with anything anybody said here,” Eaton said, before he went on to talk about the considerable cost to run a facility such as the aquatic centre.
“We’ve asked the departments — all the departments in the city — to look at the fee structures because we want to have fee structures that produce some revenue,” Eaton explained. “The pool is one of the most expensive operations we have. It’s about 70 per cent — we subsidize the pool by about 70 per cent, so the fees you pay cover only 30 per cent of the costs.”
One of the chief reasons that Humboldt’s pool rates are higher than those of larger cities is due to its size, explained Darrell Lessmeister, director of the Department of Community and Leisure Services. In cities where there are larger swimming pools with several more lanes, there can be more activities going on at the same time, allowing for a wider cross section of users than what the HAC can offer.
“We do understand about the big hike,” agreed Lessmeister. “We were trying to get it so that we had an average increase according to the industry. We look at the industry to see where we’re at in comparison, and that’s what we did this time.”
Lessmeister said the department had looked at the rates for the facilities in North Battleford, Melfort, and Yorkton, and that Humboldt’s were still lower on average than the other facilities.
“We did get some direction from the committee,” he told the Journal after the meeting, “and we’ll be going back to the delegation and talking to them. We’ll see what their thoughts are on that.”
The department’s committee will bring the recommendations to council for approval at the next City council meeting, September 10.