Councillors Tara McFadden and Marni Fedeyko hammered away at getting more details on what measures are being taken to make the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre more efficient.
By a 6-1 vote, with Councillor Fedeyko opposed, council agreed to provide $750,000 for operation costs and $165,000 for capital funding. It was part of the council's previous approval of up to $1.5 million in funding to offset the impact of its COVID-19 shutdown and to undertake critical maintenance projects.
With its phased-in approach, SLSFSC expects gross operating losses of about $1.2 million from July to September. It is expecting a $500,000 subsidy from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program. In those same months, it expects an outflow of $1.1 million for membership, tenant, and user group account credits being applied.
Councillor Fedeyko says her opposition to providing the funds is not a slur against the way the facility is being operated.
"That is not my intended message," she said. "It is the fact that I want some additional information brought forward. What efficiencies are being done? What is being looked at? How are we correcting this?"
"I never assumed that the pool or rec centre would be floating at a cost-recovery model, but what I do want to know is what we're doing to become more efficient, and so we are doing the best job possible."
Voicing similar concerns, Councillor McFadden said she expects more detail before any further funds are provided.
"I'm comfortable with where we're at today, but come the next ask, I really need to be more comfortable with where the efficiencies are and how this organization is going to get back to sustainability," said McFadden.
Both were on the losing side of a vote last month to provide additional funds to enable the town's sports hub to reopen its doors when Alberta Health Services gave the go-ahead. That has come a little quicker than originally anticipated.
There was a distinct possibility that SLSFSC would have remained closed until the end of December without the funds.
Some other councillors agree that more information is needed but supported the motion.
That includes Councillor Patrick Wilson, who was originally opposed to giving the funds to SLSFSC.
"I thought a lot of the points that Councillor McFadden and Fedeyko were making are spot on. We're all concerned over improving our operational budgets year-over-year and that's what we see moving forward. We all understand 2020 is difficult and hopefully, we don't see anything like this again."
"Nobody wants to see the facility mothballed. I never did, I don't think anybody did, but we're all concerned about our operational costs moving forward."
In contrast, Councillor Alex Reed, who represents council on the Spray Lake Sawmills Recreation Park Society, says the centre would have, indeed, been closed until next year, and that residents are grateful it is being reopened in phases,
"Spirits are high and members are coming back, and at least this centre is on the road to recovery."
Councillor Morgan Nagel said there has been an abundance of information provided over a series of six or seven meetings, and questioned the need for more.
"I think to vote against this tonight would be a little crazy, considering we are not going to be back in a voting council meeting for six more weeks. If we did defeat this, my understanding is that the rec centre would be almost inoperational, becoming solvent without this liquidity over the next two weeks. There would be complete panic mode if we defeated this tonight, and then we went on vacation."
Councillor Alex Reed provided an overview of how the funds will be used and the work currently underway at the aquatic centre.
"The aquatic centre is experiencing extensive renovations. This is another example of the poor quality or shotty workmanship that occurred in the original construction when that building was raced through to construction."
He offered to get answers to specific questions councillors may have about the society's operation and bring them forward at the next council meeting.