While the size of the financial reserve for the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC) was reduced by town council, it will still play a valuable role, says its interim CEO.

On Oct. 28, town council debated a proposal to establish a $1 million reserve for the facility. In the end, its size was halved to $500,000.

SLSFSC interim CEO Blair Felesky says the creation of the reserve will be valuable.

"We appreciate and understand that town council is representative of the entire community. I'm a taxpayer in this community as well, so I fully understand that it's a difficult decision, but it's positive."

"If something goes wrong with our assets, it gives us the ability from an emergency standpoint to access funding in a quicker manner."

"For example, if we want to go ahead with an IT master plan that will improve customer experience, we now have that ability."

The reserve will be capable of funding program development, growth projects, and customer experience enhancements. Before the reserve is accessed, a project would require approval of both the park society's board and town administration.

Funds will begin to be repaid after the annual town subsidy drops below $951,000.

A current priority of the Spray Lake Sawmills Recreation Park Society is the examination of the current lifecycles at its facilities, which also includes the Cochrane Arena. An engineering firm is completing a report to better understand their status, says Felesky.

The Cochrane Arena, for example, is 50-60 years old, he point outs. Ages vary on components of SLSFSC, from a couple of years to 20.

The society continues to finetune its programming and facilities to meet demand.

Recently, SLSFSC launched a new membership structure, supported by a marketing campaign that focuses on the theme "A community that plays together, stays together."

"What we've tried to do is create value, and position ourselves to where regardless of whatever department a user might access the price value is still very reasonable compared to other facilities in the area."

The idea of a $1 million reserve faced stiff opposition, most vocally from councillors Tara McFadden, Marni Fedeyko and Morgan Nagel. Concerns were expressed over the amount, public perception and transparency.

While quieter, Patrick Wilson was opposed entirely and voted in opposition to its creation alongside Morgan Nagel.

Mayor Jeff Genung vehemently supported the volunteer board that oversees the $100 million facility and says the town is getting a steal of a deal. He praised their commitment to the community.

While he said he has no evidence, Genung suggested striking down the motion could result in the society's board members walking.

"Our taxpayers are getting a break on this because of the way we are operating," said Genung.

"Every other community in the province has looked at this model as something they would like to aspire to. Every single mayor I've talked to in mid-sized cities touts our facility as a success story. Our cost for the return on our investment is low."

Councillor Alex Reed, who represents the town on the society's board, believed it was important to support the motion.

"They are asking for a sign of support and I think this is the support we should give them. If we don't want to do this, then we should think seriously about what the implications are in terms of risk."

Councillor Tara McFadden dismissed the idea of the board folding.

"It's not a matter that they're not doing an awesome job, it's just a matter of it being a lot of public money," said McFadden.

Fedeyko's concerns were more focused on public perception, getting measurable results and how the reserve would be utilized.

Nagel simply didn't like the idea. He preferred having the society continue to come to council on a case-by-case basis.

While initially leery of the amount, Councillor Susan Flowers was in favour of its reduction and treating it like a pilot project.

Before the addition of the aquatic and curling centres it was operated on a cost-recovery basis.