Community services

Pandemic restrictions still affect community services: RDCK report

Community services continue to operate at below normal levels of service throughout the regional district, according to a report by RDCK.

The second quarter quarterly report confirmed that, despite all restrictions from public health workers beginning April 8, attendance and revenue at recreation facilities in the Central Kootenay Regional District are underperforming.

Community services – which include recreation, parks and trails, venue rentals and public transit – are lagging behind, the report confirmed, with plans to return to pre-COVID-19 service levels. pandemic in September.

“Some departments are experiencing significant staff shortages; this is expected to continue through the fall of 2022,” Community Services Executive Director Joe Chirico said in his report to the RDCK Board. “Budget planning is very difficult because we lack historical performance data.”

The COVID-19/post-COVID-19 response plan for community services is 80% complete, Chirico noted.

He explained that all services were back up and running, but not running at full capacity.

There are “reduced opening hours for water sports as we are still experiencing a shortage of experienced staff”, he said.

The shortage means recreation facilities in the Regional District – including Nelson, Castlegar and Creston – continue to develop new strategies to attract new staff to facilities.

As part of the RDCK’s COVID19 Response and Planning Project, Regional District Administrative Manager Stuart Horn said the district is in a “maintenance” phase of the COVID-19 response.

“The vaccination policy has been lifted by the board, the mask mandate has been lifted by management, and our hybrid work environment is beginning to mature,” Horn said in the quarterly report. “Our leisure centres, transfer stations, recycling depots and field staff all have processes in place to mitigate risk.”

Cost of COVID

Earlier this year, the regional district grappled with the economic impact of the pandemic.

In 2021, the regional district was beset by expenses that otherwise would not have occurred had the pandemic not occurred, similar to 2020.

Last year, recreation center staff tracked time spent cleaning, disinfecting and preparing recreation venues for orders from provincial health officers, Horn said in a report to council in January.

“Salaries associated with this have been redirected from other work at the centers to deal with the pandemic response,” he wrote.

At the three main recreation complexes – Nelson, Castlegar and Creston – these expenditures totaled $148,563.03.

Also in 2021, Regional District staffing has been impacted, with many Regional District staff furloughed due to mandatory self-isolation.

“It particularly affected our utility construction team,” said Horn.