Residents concerned about the city closing the Parksville Community Centre (PCC) as a rental facility staged a car rally Friday afternoon. Several dozen vehicles drove from Shelly Road to the PCC and then drove circles around the block, honking their horns. Organizers said they were frustrated with council for not subsidizing the PCC.
The community centre was built 20 years ago with fundraising money from local residents and businesses. “I put $5,000 of my hard-earned dollars — after paying taxes to the City of Parksville — on the understanding that this would remain a community centre forever, until there was another one,” said Duane Round, who attended the rally and is a former president of the Parksville Community Centre Society (PCCS).
Holly Heppner, current PCCS president, said she believes the mayor intended to close the centre from the beginning of his term.
“Ed Mayne is looking to build his own building with his legacy on it. I’m sure he’s going to call it the Ed Mayne Building Sportsplex,” she said.
She said the PCC hosted many programs including a group for people with dementia, blood donation drives, a school lunch program and recreation such as tai chi and pickle ball.
“The problem was [the PCC] was mismanaged. The subsidies were amounting to 1.7 per cent of the total tax revenue of the City of Parksville and there was no sign of improvement on it,” said Mayne.
The mayor said residents were not losing out on the programs because the PCC is a rental facility and the organizations renting the building provide the programming. He added there are enough rental spaces in Parksville for those activities to continue.
The city made an agreement with the Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island (BGCVI) to lease the building after the city’s contract with the PCC expires at the end of this year. The BGCVI will provide 92 inexpensive daycare spots, in addition to after-school and weekend youth programs, Mayne said.
The PCCS was already planning to host a daycare in one of the community centre’s rooms, according to Heppner. She said she was concerned about the $2.2 million grant the city and BGCVI applied for from the ministry of children and families because if the BGCVI did not stay in the building for 15 years, Parksville taxpayers would be forced to pay back the money.
Mayne said this is not true, “we have to apply for it because the building’s in our name and it’s between the Boys and Girls Club and the ministry,” he said, adding the city expected the grant would be approved by February.
The car rally lasted for around twenty minutes and Heppner said she was happy with the turnout — police were informed ahead of time about the event but were not present.
“I think if we would have advertised more there would have been more people here, but we’re trying to keep it a little bit low key because we didn’t want Ed to shut us down,” she said.
Coun. Adam Fras met with some of the protesters after the event to listen to their concerns.
“I wish this kind of effort was involved when we were looking at how to make things a success for the community,” he said.
Fras said there would not be an opportunity to discuss the PCC at council because the contract expires at the end of December and council does not meet again until the new year. Parksville council voted to cancel its Dec. 21 meeting earlier this month.
*This story has been edited to correct Parksville Community Centre Committee (PCCC) to Parksville Community Centre Society (PCCS).