Langford flexes its parks and recreation muscle

Mayor and council requests return of $500,000 from West Shore recreation society’s capital reserve fund.

West Shore Parks and Recreation is set to get over the hurdle of passing its 2014 budget, but concerns over governance are still causing worries for the principle players.

Langford council has agreed to approve the document now that the city is no longer being asked to help pay for an athletic field at Royal Bay secondary, currently under construction.

At the same time, council also declared it doesn’t want the recreation body undertaking capital spending without municipal approval.

Mayor Stew Young also wants West Shore Parks and Rec. to return Langford’s share of reserve funds collected over the years for capital projects, to the tune of about $500,000.

“We don’t want them putting money in their capital budget, charging us for things which may or may not get built,” he said. “If we’re building a recreation facility next year, we’re going to use that money … Why would they just keep it down there for the next three or four years and build nothing?”

Langford initially rejected the budget, objecting to contributing money to the Royal Bay project while being the lone contributor to a field for the new Belmont secondary. The City of Colwood stepped in with an offer to pay half of the $150,000 needed for the Royal Bay field, allowing Langford to bow out.

The city does, however, support West Shore Parks and Rec. building a new skatepark and is willing to contribute $50,000 to the project. The Belmont land sale to Sobey’s will eventually see the existing park torn out.

Young said all capital projects should be funded this way, with municipalities shelling out money on a per-project basis. “We’ll have the money in Langford’s bank account and we’ll give the money to them when needed.”

West Shore Parks and Rec. board chair and Colwood Coun. Rob Martin agreed with the concept.

“It made good fiscal sense to have a long-term plan,” he said. “The problem has been that the municipalities have not been able to agree on the capital projects, and that is, I think, where the frustration from Langford comes from.”

Martin holds out hope that Langford can work productively with the group to create more recreation opportunities on the West Shore and not do everything on its own.

“I still very much believe in the model of West Shore Parks and Rec., where we’re all contributing,” Martin said. “The problem is not from an operational standpoint, the problem is political. The problem is the politicians won’t get out of the way.”

Martin hopes some of these issues are discussed at the next owner’s meeting in May.

West Shore Parks and Recreation’s governance agreement expires at the end of June, and considerations of its operation will be discussed in drafting a new deal. A report from 2012 recommended switching the current model requiring unanimous vote to pass motions, to one using a simple majority, with votes weighted by the financial input of contributing municipalities.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but I’m not sure what the agendas are of each municipality,” Martin said. “We have to continue to expand our recreational opportunities, otherwise we’re just going to fall further and further behind.”

kwells@goldstreamgazette.com