The letter contained is an open letter to the Mayor and all councilors of the Greater City of Sudbury in opposition to the proposed changes as recommended by staff to the pricing model of memberships at the Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre:
To the Mayor and all councilors,
It has recently come to my attention that membership fees at the Howard Armstrong Centre are to be debated at the December 6th, 2016 meeting of Finance and Administration Committee with a recommendation by staff to remove several components of the package including “free swimming lessons”.
I wish to make it known that I oppose any changes to the fees structure of HARC without prior public consultation as promised by staff and the previous councilors of Ward 5 and 6 during a public information session in held on April 15th, 2014.
Furthermore, I oppose these changes for the following reasons;
First and foremost, publicly run facilities to some extent will always be publicly funded by tax dollars and must remain affordable to all segments of the community including seniors and low income families. Arenas, fitness facilities, libraries, etc will always be subsidized; our libraries doesn’t recover it’s costs with late fees!
The Howard Armstrong Centre in 2013 as presented by staff during that April 2014 public information session indicated that HARC has a recovery rate of approximately 93%, the highest rate of all city funded fitness facilities; it essentially pays for itself requiring only approximately $18,000 of addition funding. Based on those numbers, it would appear that the pricing model at the HARC facility is effective; if you want to align the fees across the city them perhaps staff should be instructed to explore how such a fees structure could be implemented across the entire City of Greater Sudbury. Other options may include, among others, creating a city wide facilities pass which would encourage residents to purchase memberships that provided access to all facilities in an effort to increase all facilities to the same level as HARC and reduce public subsidization overall.
It seems that some people are of that opinion that they can increase revenue by removing “free swimming lessons” from the family membership. I would challenge that thinking and say that removing this element would dramatically reduced enrollment in lessons and membership fees. Part of the attraction of members currently is that they can enroll their children in lessons and then use the facilities themselves during that time while occasionally enjoying a family swim or bring their children to public swim. Removing this elements will result in many accessing other options within the private sector, decreased utilization of the facility and result in a much higher rate of public subsidization.
In closing I would encourage council to defer this decision until such time as there has been proper opportunity for public consultation as assured by previous council; anything less gives the appearance that these statements were made simple to appease the public leading into an election.
Thank you for your attention in this matter,