By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber will be conducting a recreation facility user survey throughout 2016, but not every member of town council is happy about the decision.
At their Jan. 11 meeting, town council voted 4-2 to direct administration to conduct a survey of recreation facility users over various time periods to get an accurate reflection of users over the course of a year.
Coun.(s) Randy Sparks and Andrew Prokop opposed the motion. Coun. Jack Brewin was absent from the meeting.
“There’s been some interest on behalf of some councillors, to see what our user groups look like these days,” said CAO Greg Birch. “That would be an undertaking, we’d like to do it over time. That’s the idea behind it, is to go out and sample users over the course of a year.”
According to administration, “some members of council” expressed interest in conducting a survey of recreation facility users to determine their characteristics. The last user survey was completed in 2011.
“For the councillors who want this, I’d like you to explain to me what you hope to accomplish with this,” said Sparks.
Administration suggested that by conducting a survey periodically, the municipality may get a better overall understanding of user demographics for winter, spring/summer, and fall activities, as well as being able to update council with progress reports throughout the year.
“I can say what I think. It’s to look at participation from other municipalities, as far as contribution goes toward recreational facilities,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger.
Coun. Strojwas was in alignment with DeVlieger’s assessment of a need for the survey to be conducted.
“I would agree with that. I think we need to know who is using our facilities, when it comes down to our ice rink, our sportsfields, the swimming pool — it’s just nice to know this here, so that we know we’re on the right track, and on a go-forward basis, that we’re providing the type of services needed for Taber and area.”
According to administration, the data gathered through the survey can assist the municipality with operational, financial and marketing decisions in future.
In a cryptic exchange, while apparently making reference to an unstated motive for initiating the survey on the part of fellow council, Sparks questioned the need for conducting a new survey in 2016.
“If we want information, we need to know what kind of information is being asked for, and that was not included in this. We need to know what we’re asking for here. There was survey done in 2011 — the same type of survey — and I don’t think things have changed much since then. Because I know why this is being done, and not everybody agreed with the information that was gathered at that time by our administration. So I don’t know why were doing it again — not everyone agreed with the percentages of users that our administration worked hard to get at that time.”
In response to a query from council, recreation director Aline Holmen did note that while conducting the initial survey in 2011, town staff had experienced considerable backlash and anger from users and the public while attempting to gather the targeted information.
“I don’t have a problem with this as long as administration is okay with it, because the last time this was done, there was a lot of time and effort put in and it did nothing to change anyone’s mind concerning grant funding. Nothing,” said Sparks.