A member of the White Rock Divers has started a petition on behalf of a number of Surrey aquatic groups, angling to have South Surrey’s Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre re-opened despite the city’s budget problems.
Alex Iasinskyi – the parent of two members of the Semiahmoo Peninsula-based diving club – has written a detailed letter to numerous Surrey and Langley politicians, at the civic, provincial and federal levels, explaining the need for the city’s swimming and diving clubs to return to action this summer.
Last week, the City of Surrey announced an expected deficit of between $37-$42 million. As a result, the city proposed that “most major civic facilities including Parks, Recreation and Culture and Library facilities remain closed until early September and possibly longer.”
Iasinskyi has also sent a commercial proposal to the City of Surrey, explaining that the re-opening of the South Surrey facility – which is located at 16855 24 Ave. – with all of the city’s aquatic groups operating out of it would generate more than $122,000 revenue monthly. Of that revenue, more than $65,000 would be profit, the report states.
The plan involves opening the facility to only the city’s swimming, diving, waterpolo and other aquatic groups – and does not include any provisions for public swims. As well, the plan suggests opening only the 50m pool and washrooms, with other amenities – from change rooms and water stations to the hot tub and gym – remaining closed.
Iasinskyi’s letter – which he says was created with co-operation from a number of the city’s aquatic groups – has been reprinted online in the form of a petition that has so far garnered more than 200 signatures.
“(Grandview Heights) is ideal because it’s large and has all the equipment… it can accommodate everyone,” he told Peace Arch News Monday.
In the letter, Iasinskyi states that the collective aquatic groups have “deep concerns with the unprecedented situation which is happening in the City of Surrey.” While acknowledging that individual cities are allowed to make such decisions, the letter says the plan contains “very grave flaws” and that the continued closure of indoor athletics facilities across the city will adversely affect the health and well-being of Surrey residents.
Major aquatic facilities are already open – or are scheduled to open shortly – in Saanich, Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal, the letter notes.
“It is imperative that the population be able to participate in aquatic activities in a safe manner and minimize potential health risks,” it reads.
“Needless to say that delays of Surrey’s indoor facilities re-opening… will significantly and negatively affect the following groups of local residents: seniors; people with disabilities; people with health conditions, including heart diseases; sportsmen and children – the ones who need swimming lessons to prevent potential drowning.”
With regard to the city’s taxpayers, the letter notes that a portion of “their taxes’ portions are being distributed to recreation – the same as to schools, hospitals and fire services – and these people can’t lose the constitutional rights to have access to the facilities they’ve been taxed for.”
The city’s outdoor facilities – including sports fields – have started to re-open in recent weeks. On June 17, Surrey issued a news release stating that permits for outdoor sports facilities would resume immediately, for 15 artificial turf fields, 101 sports diamonds, 95 ball diamonds, three running tracks, three volleyball courts and five lacrosse boxes throughout the city.
On Monday, however, Surrey Coun. Linda Annis put out a press release blaming the prolonged closure of indoor facilities on continued spending on the police transition, as the city aims to replace the RCMP with a municipal force.
The release notes a slew of facilities that will remain closed, as well as some upcoming projects – including the Newton Athletic Park’s fieldhouse, Newton Urban Park and the Cloverdale Ice Complex – which residents can “forget about.”
“These are just some of the measures being taken to deal with an expected $42 million shortfall in city hall revenues,” said Annis.
“Meanwhile, spending on the mayor’s proposed $129 million police transition continues every single day. If spending on police transition was stopped, all of these other cuts to city services and community facilities could be eliminated overnight.
“In the middle of COVID-19 with its negative impacts on our city, families and businesses, city hall is trying to make ends meet as the mayor’s pet project eats up more and more of the city’s budget. If we have no money for rec centres, community sports, libraries, snow removal and buying new equipment, why are we spending money on a transition to a police force Surrey taxpayers don’t want or need?”
In the release, Annis calls for the police transition plan to be halted, or at least delayed until the impact of the pandemic is dealt with.
Iasinskyi, meanwhile, told PAN, “I’m not going to stop” sending letters and petitions to politicians until facilities are re-opened.
“I will be sending more to everyone… there’s no legal grounds for them to keep these facilities closed.”