Dionne defends non-resident user fee decision at State of the City address

Mayor Greg Dionne speaks at the 2024 State of the City Address on Thursday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Mayor Greg Dionne faced questions about the City of Prince Albert’s decision to charge non-residents a $150 fee to use the City’s indoor facilities at the State of the City address on Thursday.

Dionne spoke to a packed room at the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce State of the City Address. He told attendees the City wasn’t going to back down from charging residents in the surrounding RMs to use facilities like the two new indoor rinks being built at The Yard entertainment district.

“We know lots of things that we do aren’t going to make some people happy,” Dionne told attendees. “It’d be nice if we could make a decision that made everybody happy, but we don’t live in that world.”

During the question and answer portion, Dionne was asked how instituting a fee would help with economic growth in Prince Albert.

The questioner was worried the fee would cause some organizations to reconsider hosting events in Prince Albert because of it, which would result in less traffic, and less purchasing from local businesses.

Dionne told attendees the $150 fee was “not that heavy”, and the benefits outweighed the risks.

The user fee is expected to generate an extra $100,000 in revenue. Dionne added that he’s confident residents will accept it when they see the quality of the new facilities.

“When you skate in that new rink, that $150 is a pretty cheap investment,” he said. “We cannot continue, as a city, to supply services and tax our taxpayers to supply those services, so we don’t think we’re being unreasonable.”

The City of Swift Current tried instituting a Non-resident Fee in 2011. However, they eventually placed the fee on hold, and began negotiations with the RM of Swift Current on a recreation facility funding agreement. The City also announced plans to reimburse facility users who had paid the fee.

When asked in an interview afterwards if the City of Prince Albert would reverse course as Swift Current did, Dionne said it was unlikely.

“All cities have the same problem. Swift Current had it, and they should have held to their guns because everyone supports user pay, and that’s what it’s about. It’s not about taxing,” Dionne said.

“We paid $130 million for that building, and if you don’t live in the city there’s going to be a fee to use it. I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” he added.

Dionne said delegates at the next SUMA meeting plan to ask the government to charge all RMs a Recreation Tax and provide the money to the closest facility supplier, something the City of Prince Albert supports.

Dionne spoke for roughly 45 minutes before taking questions on Thursday. His speech focused on community highlights like the City’s 10-year, $45 million asphalt paving program, which has resulted in 556 city blocks being repaved, and future development in Prince Albert like the new First Nations University campus, and the new acute care tower that will be built just north of Victoria Hospital.