Penticton makes adjustments to recreation rates

Councillor calls for two-tier system to charge a higher rate to residents of outlying areas

New admission rates for the Penticton Community Centre came into effect this week, geared toward making the facility more affordable and accessible for the entire community.

At the same time, Penticton city council has endorsed a motion from Coun. John Vassilaki that city staff once again look into the possibility of a two-tier pricing system for the city’s recreation facilities, with visitors from surrounding areas paying a higher rate to use the facilities.

“The reason I brought this forward strictly has to do with fairness between the citizens of Penticton and the surrounding areas that don’t pay any taxes to the community,” said Vassilaki, who has brought similar motions forward in past years.

“In 2010, we did pass a two-tier system, but for some strange reason, whether it was staff or council, there was no backbone to put it in place. It just failed and it never went forward,” said Vassilaki, who suggested raising fees by 20 per cent, with Penticton taxpayers getting a 20 per cent discount by showing a valid library card.

According to Vassilaki, Penticton is the only South Okanagan city that doesn’t have agreements in place with its sub-regional areas other than West Bench, which contributes $60,000 through the library system and $20,000 yearly to the community centre.

“They are contributing a considerable amount and I would be happy if the other two communities would contribute a similar amount,” said Vassilaki. “I don’t know how many times we have brought it forward at the regional district. We should go to a two-tier system, because they are not interested in putting it in their budgets for taxation.“

The staff report on the viability of two-tier pricing will take some time to prepare, but for now, the new admission rate structure introduced this week has the goal of making the community centre more affordable and inclusive.

Seniors are eligible for new admission categories, while people with cognitive and physical disabilities can save with a new access pass program. Residency requirements for some programs will make the centre more inclusive for First Nations.

The existing senior admission will reduce the age category requirement to 60 years from 65. In addition to this change, a new, lower “super senior” rate will be available for individuals 75 years and older.

“The introduction of the super seniors drove our category down for seniors,” said Chuck Loewen, general manager of facilities, museum and recreation services. The gap between 65 and 75, he said, wasn’t large enough.

The super senior rate is intended to encourage more activity for older seniors and make it less costly. Loewen said they already have steady traffic form that age group, but want to see more.

“We felt the opportunity for them to take part in more activity would be beneficial for them and beneficial to us,” said Loewen. “These changes fit in well with Recreation’s strategic objective of inclusion, accessibility and affordable recreation.”

Another change sees residency requirements for the LIFE program (Leisure Involvement For Everyone) extended to include the Penticton Indian Band boundaries, expanding access to the program, which was established to provide low-cost recreation opportunities at the community centre and spread the health benefits of recreation to all socio-economic groups.

The last change is the creation of the access pass program, which is available for people with permanent cognitive and/or physical disabilities. Eligible participants are entitled to 25 per cent off 10-ticket, one-month, three-month, six-month and 12-month passes for the fitness room and pool.

Applications for the LIFE and access pass programs are available at the Penticton Community Centre. For information, call 250-490-2426 or email rec@penticton.ca.