David Todtman and Valerie Dare briefly discussed the petition and read comments to council on Monday, April 19.
“Thank you for your willingness to listen to the voices of citizens and hear their thoughts regarding their community centre,” said Todtman. “They also ask that you honour your commitments to our shared principles of democracy, including public consultation.”
He said the opinions expressed made it clear citizens want to keep the entire community involved with the centre, opposed to using it as a child care facility for the Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island.
“We began the ‘save the Parksville Community Centre petition’ in response to many calls for action in support of keeping the PCC as the community gathering place,” said Dare. “With COVID protocols, we had to proceed with virtual actions and the petition was the best way to gather the concerns of the community so we could share them with you.”
She said the initial hope was to gather a few hundred signatures, but as of April 20, the total sum of signatures collected sits at nearly 2,600.
Todtman read aloud a “small sample” of messages written by petition signers that had been grouped into three themes; the PCC’s importance to residents; community pride and ownership of the PCC; and the decision to re-purpose the PCC and hand over operations without public consultation.
Comments ranged from signers stating how much they would miss the community events held at the centre, such as exercise and social classes, as well as events like the Christmas fair.
“These comments show how attached the public is to the community asset that they planned, paid for and operated. It’s part of their identity,” said Dare.
Dare also spoke of funds lost to the community since charitable organizations would regularly use the PCC to host events.
“We want to thank you on behalf of the people of our city. They took the time to consider the issue and the people spoke clearly. They spoke passionately and they spoke resolutely. They tried to engage you through this petition to tell you that they want to keep their community gathering place open to everyone. They’re voices clearly call for reconsideration and reversal of one sided decisions on this issue,” said Todtman.
At the end of the presentation, Coun. Adam Fras asked if city staff had received a petition for council to consider. Chief administrative officer, Keeva Kehler, indicated to Fras that staff have not yet received anything.