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Agassiz gym plan moves ahead in council chambers

A new gymnasium for the District of Kent got a little closer to reality at Monday's council meeting.

A gym has been in the grand plans for future additions to the current Fitness/ Activity Centre, but now there is a chance for the District to obtain up to 80 per cent in provincial grant money for the project. That could equal a total of $960,000 in grant money toward the much-needed gym space.

That chance has spurred on discussions in council over the past two meetings, looking at what is currently offered throughout the District, and what will be needed in the near and distant future.

Kerry Hilts, Director of Community Services, told council that a gym could help "address the gaps in the community" for youth, particularly those ages five to 15.

The application must be filed by Christmas Eve to be considered by the Province, and a somewhat solid plan is an essential part of the application, Hilts explained.

He posed three options to the council: A Junior Gymnasium at a cost of $700,000; a Junior Gymnasium Plus at a cost of $900,000 or an International Gymnasium (full sized) at a cost of $1,200,000.

After much discussion, council voted all in favour of the third option.

If the grant for the full-sized facility is approved, and the full 80 per cent is awarded to the District, that would equal $960,000. That leaves $100,000 to come from internal funding and $140,000 in borrowing principle.

The annual principle payment would be almost $26,000 with $3,000 in annual interest.

However, there is a chance the amount awarded is as low as 50 per cent.

If that were to happen, Hilts said, council and staff would be free to explore ways to cut back on the project.

CAO Wallace Mah encouraged council and staff to "get creative" for fundraising ideas, and creating a marketing plan. He also recommended the full-sized gym option, saying "go big or go home."

Good timing

By chance, a delegation addressed council on Monday night, highlighting the inadequacies of the current recreation options in Agassiz.

Mal and Linda Shephard hadn't planned on timing their presentation to council on the same night that a preliminary decision would be made on a new gymnasium. It's just the way it worked out, they said.

"We'd been talking and talking and talking about getting a group together to approach council about what was happening to us at the gym," Linda Shephard said.

When their group of friends, most of whom attend the Fitness/ Activity Centre's current programs, realized that there was only one council meeting left in the calendar year, they decided that would be the one to attend.

"We said, 'let's do it,'" she said. "Then they'll have time to think about this over the Christmas season."

They told council how they've noticed the improved health of their friends who regularly go to the gym, despite reports of decreasing health across North America.

However, they also outlined the cramped space in the Fitness/ Activity Centre, and the need for more room for expanded courses.

They encouraged council to look at funding options as a way to invest in the future.

"I think they were very supportive of what we said," Mal Shephard said.

The Shephards and several of their friends stayed in council to learn more about the gymnasium possibility.

"One thing we didn't say (to council) was the fact that the money they could get now (from the government) is the cheapest they'll ever get it," Mal said.

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