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City of Parksville to contribute more funds to get Oceanside track project to the finish line

Mayor O’Brien suggested $750,000 allocation from existing grants
The Ballenas Secondary School track badly needs an upgrade. (PQB file photo)

The City of Parksville mayor Doug O’Brien wants the city to contribute additional funding to help the Ballenas track upgrade project reach the finish line.

O’Brien made the proposal during the special meeting for the five-year financial plan on April 12.

The money, O’Brien initially suggested in his motion, would be taken from the $4.8 million Growing Communities Fund the city received from the B.C. government last March.

“Instead of funding from tax, move that to the Growing Communities Fund and put funding down at $750,000, which would be for the entire completion of the track with the understanding that this would be the placemaker to make sure that the track is finished,” said O’Brien, who is hoping the other partners, the Regional District of Nanaimo) and the Town of Qualicum Beach would follow their lead. “This would be the maximum amount that this would be earmarked and deducted out of the Growing Communities Fund.”

However, the City’s director of finance Jedha Holmes indicated the track project might not be eligible for the Growing Communities Fund.

“My understanding is that Growing Community Fund cannot be used for the track because it’s a project that is already in progress and is meant for incremental,” said Holmes. But O’Brien argued the project is not in progress yet and pointed out that when the city was awarded the funding, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Adam Walker suggested the city use part of the grant to help the $1.5 million track upgrade.

Staff intends to clarify the criteria with the provincial government and also suggested making the motion flexible to allow them to switch things around just in case.

“So something that we would be using gas tax for, we can try to kind of trade the two off,” said Holmes. “So if we’re not allowed to use the Growing Community Fund, we can basically switch two things out. If you know what I mean. So we will find another item.”

Holmes suggested to the mayor, to make his motion a little bit more general and not too specific. She said the motion should say, “use of existing grant money.”

The Ballenas Secondary School cinder track has been deemed unsafe, forcing some Parksville Qualicum Beach elite athletes to train out of town. The plan is to build a six-lane rubberized all-season training course. Supporters and stakeholders of the Oceanside Community Track project has already raised more than half of the $1.5 million price tag and are hoping to start construction this year.

“My feeling is it has gone long enough,” said O’Brien. “We’ve pushed this can down the road for 20 years.”

Initially, the city’s financial draft reflected just another $50,000 to be allocated to the project and to be paid for by taxpayers. Coun. Mary Beil thought it was an error as she feels it should be at least $500,000.

“I certainly support the project and would love to see this completed soon,” said Beil. “And as a bonus, the city will not be responsible for maintenance. This is on school board property. We did not have to purchase land for this. We got the benefit to use it and the youth in our community will get to use it. So I think it’s a win-win when we get this going.”

O’Brien said they will continue to seek support from the RDN and also from the Town of Qualicum Beach to lower the amount the city is proposing to allocate.

The Town of Qualicum Beach is currently deliberating on it strategic plans and also its five-year financial plan.

At its regular council meeting on April 12, Coun. Jean Young reported there are some parents who want to have a track and field facility built at Kwalikum Secondary School.

“Hopefully, we can develop something that is eight track, that will be able to host competitive events and that will also bring more commerce into our town,” said Young. “Currently, we’ve been asked to support the Oceanside track and field in Ballenas. And there’s a concern by parents of our local students that it would be ideal for our children to have their practice field here because there’s not even a bus to take the students to Parksville.”

Young said the parents plan to appear before council as a delegation.

Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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