March 24th, 2019

Veiner Centre increase a must: mayor

By Gillian Slade on July 11, 2018.

City council is on board with the 150 per cent increase in fees to join the newly renovated and expanded seniors centre that will officially open later this month. Looking at the Veiner Centre from Lions Park there is a children's playground in the foreground.--NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE 

City council is on board with the 150 per cent increase in fees to join the seniors’ centre, says the mayor.

Ted Clugston says, while it might sound like a significant increase, the new facility cost nearly $12 million and there are increased operating expenses.

“I’m not trying to sell it but it’s $8 just to drop into the Leisure Centre,” said Clugston. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable … If you ate there (at the Veiner Centre) a couple times a week you’d get the $8 back on a subsidized meal.”

The city will work with people if the cost is a struggle, he said.

Paul Nederveen says he is “extremely disappointed” to see the increase, which saw the annual membership fee climb from $40 to $100.

“Where is the “Medicine Hat Advantage?” he asked.

The city has previously recognized seniors as a demographic to attract, and acknowledged some seniors have a limited budget.

Some are wealthy and have a lot more money than a single mom with two kids though, says Clugston.

“Our fees policy …. we don’t single any age group or demographic out anymore. We try to come up with fees that are fair for everybody.”

The mayor says the fee is still extremely affordable and the city has to ensure it is not hurting the private sector offering fitness memberships, said Clugston.

Nederveen claims the membership is out of proportion to what other senior centres are charging, which range from $20 to $50.

SAGE, Edmonton’s largest centre, charges $26.50, Edmonton Seniors Centre $30, S.E. Edmonton Seniors Centre $30, Mill Woods (Edmonton) Seniors Centre $30, said Nederveen. Calgary’s Kerby Centre charges $22, Calgary’s Confederation Park Seniors Centre $30, Red Deer’s Golden Circle Seniors Centre $25, Grand Prairie’s Golden Age Centre $20, Lethbridge Seniors Centre $50, and Lethbridge’s Nordbridge Seniors Centre $50.

These membership fees likely have user fees so do not reflect the actual cost, said Clugston.

“We’re offering, probably, the nicest building in the province,” said Clugston.

A golf membership is about $2,000 a year and you only get to use it for about four months, said Clugston.

The number of members in Medicine Hat had been up to about 1,800 and is currently about 1,300. It is expected to increase after the Veiner Centre reopens July 24, said Clugston.

Nederveen notes many seniors join the Veiner Centre primarily to participate in one activity, such as playing cards and says the new fee will make this prohibitive. Those who only come to the cafeteria occasionally will choose to not join.

In the past, Nederveen has given Veiner Centre memberships as gifts to others. He says he will not do that at the new rate.

Membership that includes access to the fitness equipment will be $200. The fitness equipment however, was and is not supplied by the City.

“Seniors themselves (not the city) have bought all the equipment for the former Veiner Centre and have already bought five new treadmills for the new gym, which will be housed in the Strathcona Centre,” said Nederveen.

The fee reflects additional requirements though.

“Our insurance requirements have all changed. We have to have a full-time person there, paid employee, whenever anybody is using any of the fitness equipment,” said Clugston.

In July 2013 the Veiner Centre on Woodman Avenue was so damaged by flood waters that it stood empty. Renovations and an expansion began in the spring of 2017 and it will re-open July 24. The fitness equipment will be located in the Strathcona Centre, which is where the seniors centre has been operating from in the past five years.

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