There was quite a bit of yelling, more so than at other meetings of this ilk. Basically the concern was that we were being smacked in the face with a wet fish and no apologies, i.e. rates are going up for five years till we’re more or less at the level we should be. Actually, the APPC is a real bargain, still. All city facilities are. Even so, the grant for those under the poverty line doesn’t do it all. We need to see a sliding scale used for those seniors on a fixed income who are just over that poverty line but now will be unable to swim, something that may be the only thing keeping them out of nursing homes.
These pictures aren’t fantastic but lights were only on at the back of the room (as well as no mikes to hear questions and no back up stats for answering said questions – are you getting the tone of this meeting yet??)
Rob Hutchinson, our excellent city councilor took time as usual to attend and help with some answers.
Someone suggested seniors are paying for everyone else. This was countered by the suggestion that parents with young children are just as important. What was missing here was an understanding that next to Victoria, B.C. Kingston is the biggest retirement community in Canada with a huge population. No one wants to take away from the concerns of the young, yet the needs of such a large group really deserve more than a pat on the old grey head.
So to sum up: Swim/AquaFit now also have to include gym memberships. (Exactly how many seniors want to be lifting weights at an age that hovers around 80?). Seniors will still get a 20% discount. The gym size will be cut in half by renovations. A huge family change room was shown (which would accomodate a single family). There was no explanation of where all the new space would come for the many amenities planned but all discussion of renovation was answered by; ‘nothing’s final yet, not set in stone,’ yet the slides seemed to indicate that a lot had already been decided.
Can I give you an exact figure on the rate raising? Sorry. Not yet. But I’ll add it when I get it, having to admit that nailing down the figures was something I left to the mathheads in the room which is where a lot of the yelling came from. It’s still a bargain.
I wish there’d been some easing of the message, some compassion, some even minimal attempt to explain WHY the fee raising, a try at understanding where fixed income seniors are coming from rather than a blithe sentence or two about how affluent ‘most’ seniors are these days. A little refresher course in Meeting 101 would have gone a loooong ways on this particular evening.
Many many questions went home unanswered, only to appear in the locker rooms on Thursday and Friday. We need to scrap the very memory of this pathetic attempt at a meeting and do another run through on a more empathetic, jargonless and lots more informed note with HANDOUTS!
The following addendum came from a member who has been reflecting on the above information.
Comparable Ontario Cities with an aging demographic like Kingston include Thunder Bay, Sudbury, St. Catherines. Their ‘seniors’ are at either 55 or 60 and their rates allow pool only opportunities. For example a senior (age 55) 3 month swim pass in Sudbury is $64. A 3 month senior (age 60) aquatic fitness pass (for aquatics) in St. Catherines is $71.43.
Where is the City of Kingston getting their numbers? Richmond Hill, Barrie?
Public consultation should be more open and transparent. If nothing was handed out at the meeting, who knows what was really being proposed?
· You have asked the question WHY? For 35 years little has changed at Artillery Park Aquatic Centre (APAC). In recent years fees have been going up (and we assumed this was keeping up with inflation) but now what’s the reason for the change in the senior rate from 55 to 65 plus the proposed inclusion of the gym membership with the pool? Whether they be 55, 65, 75 or 85 years of age the City should encourage more, not less participation from our aging community. You don’t do this by introducing arbitrary, unjustifiable fee increases. Council should be asked to review the considerations of staff.
· There is an operational deficit at Artillery Park, but this is common at all municipal pools and not really alarming. A report submitted to the City’s Recreation Committee March 23, 2010 identified the annual operational deficit as $410,000. For the current number of registered users this works out to a subsidy of $107 per user. Reducing this subsidy may be justified but compared to the subsidy of $399 given to ice users for their $1,400,000 operational loss, the users of Artillery Park (most of which are in higher age groups that ice users) are being imposed fee increases that are not warranted. WHY?
· under the Sustainable Kingston Plan there is a Social Equity statement, one of the defined pillars of the plan “… providing and promoting affordable, accessible recreation and leisure opportunities that support healthy and active lifestyles for the well-being of individuals, families and those wishing to age-in-place” . The proposed increase in the senior age and the rate increase for pool users is in direct contradiction to this statement. As the community ages more accessibility to swimming when there will likely be less to other uses like ice, should be accommodated.
· Comparisons should not be made cities with different demographics and modern, spacious, full featured facilities. Artillery Park is a great pool and fitness centre but take a serious look at what it really is. It should not be compared to the Invista Fitness Centre
Questions to ask: Why?
· What is the intended goal … revenue, reduced deficit, increased membership?
· Have the proposed changes been ‘modelled’ to see the results? Including a survey of current users who would ‘drop-out’?
· If pool users must pay a full membership fee, why mustn’t gym users acquire a full membership fee?
· Are the proposed renovations of value to the Artillery Park operation? If a family change room cannot accommodate the numbers of swimmers and their parents 1) going into and 2) leaving the pool at the same time (20 kids) where is the value in this? Yes we want improvements, like hot water, less chlorine but Artillery Park has limitations. Seniors very much like it the way it is.
· Where will patrons be expected to go for the duration of the renovation? How long is it expected to take.
ACTION: Make sure to have patrons ask for councillors assistance to clear up the shortage of information, etc. Hope this helps.