The Parksville Community Centre is in jeopardy of closing down and its fate is in the hands of city council who are evaluating the next steps for the Jensen Avenue facility. - Karly Blats photo

Parksville Community Centre in jeopardy of closing doors

City council did not renew contract with the PCC society and will evaluate next steps

The fate of the Parksville Community Centre (PCC) is in the hands of city council, which will evaluate whether or not to keep the Jensen Avenue facility open.

Parksville mayor Ed Mayne said the city’s contract with the PCC goes until the end of 2019 and that the current deficit to operate the building represents two per cent of the city’s tax revenue.

“We have to evaluate whether that’s something the people of Parksville want to continue to pay,” Mayne said. “We’ve paid, in the last 10 years, over $2.5 million to support [the PCC] so we need to think about whether we continue with the support or we find a better way to do it.”

Mayne said council hope to have a decision before the end of the year to present to the Parksville Community Centre Society (PCCS).

“Worst-case scenario it would continue to operate until the end of the calendar year,” he said.

Mayne addressed a rumour that surfaced about the building being used to facilitate a new RCMP office. He said that’s a suggestion he’s heard about what the PCC would turn into if shut down.

“When you’re talking about what would you do with a building like this as part of the decision making process, you’re looking at what would this building be if it wasn’t the PCC and that was one of the suggestions,” Mayne said. “My understanding is, and I’m not part of the RCMP… they’re fairly crowded over there ( 727 Island Hwy. W). and this would be a great opportunity but no it’s not anything that should be taken as something serious.”

RELATED: Society that operates Parksville Community and Conference Centre is looking for a new prez

The PCCS has run the facility for more than 13 years, providing a gathering place for the community.

In 1994, the Parksville Lions Club identified the need for a new community hall, to replace the existing Parksville Community Hall which was no longer economically maintainable and considered to be inadequate to meet the needs of a growing community.

The City of Parksville supported the project and in 1996 committed to providing the necessary land for the facility. In December 1998, the city offered the PCCS a site alongside the proposed new Civic and Technology Centre on Jensen Avenue.

Construction of the PCC began in 2000 and was completed in June 2003. During the construction phase, the PCCS raised approximately $335,000 in community contributions towards the construction and other capital costs, while the city contributed approximately $948,000. At the completion of the project, the city retained ownership of the PCC land and buildings and outsourced the operation of the facility to the PCCS.

Holly Heppner, PCCS president, said she was shocked to receive a letter from Parksville city council two days after they voted to revoke the PCCS contract, which was renewed in October 2018.

“On Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 it was announced at a city council meeting without (prior) notification to the PCCS or to the board of any sort, we heard it from the public…they were cancelling our contract as of Dec. 31, 2019. ” Heppner said.

Heppner said she immediately spoke with Coun. Mark Chandler, the liaison to the PCCS, following the announcement, and he told her there is concerns with the cost of wages of PCCS staff.

“[Council] feels the wages of the staff are too much,” Heppner said. “We’re on a skeleton crew as it is. If we cut back staff we’d have to close the doors.”

There’s currently two full-time and three part-time employees staffed at the PCC. In the PCC’s five-year budget plan for 2019-2023, total wage expenses for 2019 are projected at $269,200 and $269,220 for 2020. Total expenses for the PCC, including wages, repairs, utilities, insurance and other administrative and advertising expenses, are projected at $394,300 for 2019 and $397,750 for 2020. Total income for the PCC in 2019 is projected at $394,300 in 2019 and $397,750 in 2020.

Heppner said the PCCS originally presented the 2019 budget to the then council on Oct. 1, 2018 and asked for a renewal of their contract for a period of two years, ending Dec. 31, 2020. The previous council approved the renewal and asked the society to make some “minor revisions” to the budget and bring it back to council.

“During that time a new city council was voted in so we presented our (revised) budget on Nov. 19, 2018,” Heppner said. “Last year, the PCC made a profit, which 50 per cent was returned back to the city. We are under new management after 10 years and expect to meet and exceed our budget.”

Heppner said, despite numerous attempts to get in contact with city council, no response was given to the society following the revised budget presentation, until the announcement on Jan. 21 that the city was not renewing the contract.

“You cannot have a city without a community hall. You just can’t take it away like that, what are people going to do?” Heppner said. “It is a disservice to the community to close our community centre. It is an insult to the founding members who were instrumental in opening the Jensen Avenue building as a gathering place for our community.”

Multiple community groups and organizations currently use the PCC for meetings and events, movies, pickle ball, expos and galas.

“We already have bookings going into 2021. As well, our community centre is designated as an emergency reception centre, “ Heppner said. “When fire engulfed the 34-unit Oceanside Terrace apartment on July 6, 2017, residence who lost everything were brought to the PCC in the late evening where they were cared for.”

Heppner said the current society is working hard to attract more business to the PCC in the coming years which she believes will bring in more income.

“That’s what we’re working, we don’t want to show a loss we want to show a profit,” she said.

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