LETTER: Disregard for community involvement in the community centre decision should be corrected

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By Karen Charlesworth

I wish to address some serious concerns with the Parksville City Council’s recent application for a provincial funding grant involving the Parksville Community Centre, which is currently closed. The particular application of concern would allow The Boys and Girls Club, a non-profit child care organization, to renovate and provide child care at this location. It should be noted that acceptance of this grant, if over $500,000, would also involve a 15 year commitment by the City of Parksville to ensure that continuous child care services are provided at the Parksville Community Centre facility, according to the provincial government.   

The Parksville Community Centre is a public asset of considerable value to the city’s residents.  The audit by KPMG confirms this in its report which states, “It is our overall conclusion that the operation of the PCCC provides significant value to the taxpayers of Parksville but that this value could be enhanced by refreshing the facility’s branding and marketing approach, strengthening the society’s governance and operational processes.”  

City council has determined the management of the community centre by a non-profit board to be an unfavourable governance model. It should be noted that there are other governance models currently operating Community Centres throughout B.C., one example would be the City of Comox, similar in size and population to Parksville, which has changed numerous times between the non-profit board and city management systems.  

The decision by city council to review the use of the Community Centre is one which must involve citizen input. It should be noted that the current council and mayor have frequently emphasized the importance of this input in their decision making. It is concerning therefore that this process has been eliminated from this community centre issue. The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, eliminated group meetings at this time. This reinforces that community involvement should have occurred prior to the grant application for funding involving the centre.

Increasing child care opportunities for Parksville is certainly an important issue. It should be noted that child care organizations in B.C. have been advised they will be governed by the ministry of education in the near future. In this respect it is understood there is currently significant unused space in vacant schools and within existing schools in the Oceanside area that could be utilized for child care needs. It should be noted that the proposed 90 child facility for the community centre would also require a licensed playground, which could negatively impact the nearby Berwick Centre and Stanford Seniors’ Village residents.

The Town of Qualicum Beach is constructing a “purpose built” child care centre on the grounds of the Qualicum Civic Centre. This facility will be situated within the adjacent forest and therefore will not impact nearby residents. It also will not negatively impact other similar existing facilities within the community. This facility will be the property of the Town of Qualicum Beach, managed by a non-profit board and will have all future maintenance costs borne by the residents of Qualicum Beach.

It is suggested that Parksville City Council examine some business models currently utilized by successful non-profit child care organizations. Generally these organizations do not pay for leases, facility maintenance or utilities.  

The loss of the Community Centre to the citizens of Parksville means the loss of a valuable community asset without any financial gain. A similar comparison must be made with the Parksville Community Park. This facility results in a significant annual cost to citizens for maintenance, water, vegetation and employee wages. Most of this facility, including the ball parks and courts, is under-utilized for 8 months of the year. Despite this fact, it is doubtful that any person would suggest this facility should “pay for itself” as has been suggested about the Community Centre.

It has been suggested that some local hotels have rooms available for rent by the community for particular needs if required. Oceanside News reported on a discussion with Mayor Ed Mayne and wrote, “Mayne said he is confident there are enough spaces for programs and events in the City such as, Tigh-Na-Mara, the Beach Club, the Rodeo Grounds, Shelly Hall and the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre. ‘We’re talking a 10 minute drive between the areas,’ he said.”  

The disregard for community involvement in the community centre issue by the Parksville City Council is concerning and shows disrespect for the taxpayers and citizens who donated money to fund the Parksville Community Centre (opened in 2003). This must be corrected through community involvement before any further action occurs with this facility.

Although the lease with The Boys and Girls Club has not been signed, the request for grant funds to facilitate this lease indicates the direction of city council. They should be reminded that decisions on issues such as the community centre should only be made after community consultation. Council should not be making decisions first and then supplying facts to support their decision. That would not be consistent with the community based system of governance which this mayor and council indicated during the last election that they would follow for the citizens of Parksville. They should also be reminded that during the past election they did campaign on a “platform of concern” about the lack of public consultation shown by the previous city council towards construction of supportive housing at 222 Corfield St.  

I encourage Parksville residents to contact city council to express concern or support on this matter with copies of any correspondence sent to the provincial ministry (MCF Child Care Capital and Community services)responsible for this funding grant.  

I also encourage Parksville residents to examine the pre-COVID programming that was offered in community centres throughout the province. Some examples, such as Tuesday and Thursday wellness classes and the preschool gymnastics program are opportunities that could be facilitated through our community centre.  

I suggest that some of the COVID relief funds which the City of Parksville received from the B.C. government should be used to support the community centre. This would permit the facility (currently closed) to reopen until the community can be involved in discussions on the future use of the Parksville Community Centre. 

Oceanside News Parksville Qualicum Beach

Karen Charlesworth

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