It is taking longer than expected for community recreation facilities in the RDCK to return to normal after the pandemic. File photo.

It is taking longer than expected for community recreation facilities in the RDCK to return to normal after the pandemic. File photo.

Reduced hours due to staff shortages continue at RDCK rec facilities

Attendance and revenue at recreation facilities across the RDCK are under-performing

by Timothy Schafer

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Nelson Daily

Community Services — which includes recreation, parks and trails, hall rentals and transit — continues to perform at below normal service levels across the Regional District of Central Kootenay, according to an RDCK report.

The report for the second quarter confirmed that, despite all Public Health Officer restrictions coming off April 8, attendance and revenue at recreation facilities across the RDCK are under-performing.

Community Services are lagging, the report confirmed, with planning for a return to pre-pandemic service levels occurring in September.

“Some services have significant staffing shortages; this is projected to continue until fall 2022,” said general manager of Community Services, Joe Chirico, in his report to the RDCK board. “Budget planning is very difficult as we lack historical performance data.”

The COVID-19 response/post COVID-19 re-opening plan for Community Services is up to 80 per cent complete, Chirico noted.

He explained that all services were back in operation, but were not operating at full capacity.

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

The shortage means that regional district recreational facilities — including Nelson, Castlegar and Creston — are continuing to develop new strategies to attract new staff to the facilities.

Under the RDCK’s COVID-19 response and planning project, the regional district’s chief administrative officer Stuart Horn said the district was in a “maintenance” phase of COVID-19 response.

“The vaccine 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 recreation 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 with expenses that would otherwise have not occurred had the pandemic not happened, the same as in 2020.

Last year recreation centre staff tracked their time spent cleaning, disinfecting, and preparing recreation locations for the provincial health officer orders, said Horn in a report to the board in January.

“The wages associated with this were redirected from other work at the centres to deal with the pandemic response,” he wrote.

Across the three major recreation complexes — Nelson, Castlegar and Creston — these totaled $148,563.03.

Also in 2021 the regional district staffing was impacted with numerous regional district staff members being on leave due to a requirement to self-isolate.

“This particularly impacted our utilities construction crew,” said Horn.