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City puts one on the button to help curling club solve its infrastructure woes

The curling club remains closed while the executive searches for funds to repair the ailing ice plant before the season begins in October. — The Nelson Daily photo

The city has drawn into the house for the curling club but it will be the regional partners that now hold the hammer on making sure the project to repair the ice plant is a complete sweep by October.

A request by the Nelson Curling Club (NCC) to the city for funding to help repair its ailing ice plant before the season begins in October has been met and raised to $30,000 by city council, after council passed a motion Monday night during its regular meeting.

But, although the amount goes a long way to resolving the plant concerns, it is still short of the $130,000 total the project will need to be complete. 

However, last month NCC president Gordon Weiss said the club had spread the “ask” around through a proposed collaborative funding partnership that included regional district’s Area F ($20,000), Area E ($20,000), Area H ($5,000), Area G ($5,000) and the curling club at $30,000.

“It’s been hinted at quite strongly that they will match funds” if the city is on board, said Weiss.

As well, the club can now apply to the Columbia Basin Trust for a grant to fund the remaining cost of replacing or repairing the plant.

WorkSafe BC and Technical Safety BC had ordered certain modifications and repairs to the NCC’s ice plant. Over the last year, the NCC has spent about $13,000 on certain repairs and requirements which has depleted its financial reserves. Currently, an ammonia leak has shut down the curling rink.

Around $60,000 is needed to refurbish the chiller and address the immediate needs of the facility.

The money from the city is expected to come from the Community Works Fund (Gas Tax), a sum which Nelson has seen double for 2019 to over $1 million.

“Staff believe that this would be the appropriate fund to support the NCC request to share in the cost of refurbishing the ice plant,” noted a city staff report on the request.

A motion was also passed in council to set up a task force to review the operation of the curling club facility and investigate the recreation complex.

The curling club had expressed a desire to limit its facility usage to six months of the year — freeing up the facility for other activities.

It is expected that the lease agreement the curling club has will be re-negotiated with the city to allow other community groups to utilize the facility outside the regular curling season and utilize the non-ice spaces during the curling season for other recreation programming or general uses.

The city’s Recreation Master Plan identified switching curling facilities with soccer but noted it would carry a multi-million dollar price tag for the project.

But the city could adopt an approach to the curling club that it has taken with the Civic Centre. 

The city had entered into an agreement with the regional district to operate the Civic Arena, and the same contractor that maintains the ice in the Civic Arena maintains the ice in the curling rink. 

There is also an annual city maintenance fund of $55,000 that previously funded the Sports Council (when it operated the Civic Arena) that is available to fund other maintenance projects. 

“A similar model for the Civic Centre could be applied to the NCC, creating a more cohesive approach to recreation in Nelson,” noted the city staff report.

Until recently the curling club has fully funded its operations with no subsidy from local government, other than the initial donation of land. In 1995 the NCC donated its facility to the city and entered into a 20-year lease agreement which provided that the NCC would lease and operate the building. 

Two years ago the NCC formally notified the city that the lease agreement was expired and that the NCC could no longer manage the building under the terms of the old lease agreement. 

For the last five years the curling club has operated at a deficit, and in 2017 and 2018 that deficit was in the amount of $30,000 each year, which are bills for city utilities.

The situation faced by the curling club is not new to the area. Other communities such as Grand Forks and Riondel have had to upgrade their curling ice plants and the municipal governments in those respective communities have provided the funding.