Town of Lake Cowichan residents no longer have to pay double the price compared to some surrounding areas to use the swimming pool in Duncan, at least for the time being.
Council announced Tuesday an agreement with the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan to end the two-tier fee structure previously in place for use of the Cowichan Aquatic Centre.
Under the old two-tier system, the town’s residents would pay $12 for use of the pool, whereas Duncan or Shawnigan Lake residents for example would only pay $6.
That has now been waived and those who live in Lake Cowichan will also pay $6. The agreement lasts one year.
“I’m pretty happy as it makes the great facilities at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre more affordable for Lake Cowichan residents and people here enrolling their kids in swimming programs,” said Mayor Ross Forrest. “We’ve been having discussions for a couple of years. It’s been a long time coming.”
The agreement means around $3,000 will need to be paid by taxpayers in the town, working out to about $2 per household. The mayor believes that’s “pretty reasonable.”
“We have options to extend it (the agreement) for four years and we’ll be sending out a notice with our utility bill for people to come into the office to say whether or not they think we should continue to go into the pool in 2015. We’re looking for more public input.”
Forrest stressed that the notice to be sent out is not a referendum.
“This is a cost and it’s been a very difficult time, but now it’s all worked out and we’re happy,” he said. “There was lots of arguments on both sides which I can totally understand as there are some people who won’t use the aquatic centre.”
The two-tier structure still remains in place for Areas F and I of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, so residents of Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls and Youbou will still have to pay double to use the pool.
“We tried to get it done to include the other two areas as well but it just didn’t work out, so the town goes into it on its own.”
Lake Cowichan resident Ted Gamble has been instrumental in getting the agreement to occur. He set up a Facebook page last January entitled “Lake Cowichan needs access to the Duncan Pool” with 113 people joining.
“I think the agreement is fabulous and I’m hoping we stay partners for the long term,” said Gamble. “We live by a lake, so the kids need to know how to swim. There shouldn’t be a barrier.”
In the past year, Gamble also rallied a band of around 35 local troops who regularly attempted to make the town aware of what they deemed an unfair structure.
“We were very active, particularly in the first six months of the year. Between 35 and 40 of us regularly went to the parks and recreation meetings to put pressure on council.
“We met a couple of times a week, made buttons up and did a lot of writing to the paper. We also went to gatherings at Centennial Hall and had t-shirts made up just to raise awareness. It’s outstanding we now have better access to a multi-million dollar facility.”