Students have been training on the dilapidated cinder-track at the Ballenas Secondary. There’s now a plan to upgrade the facility to a six-lane rubberized track. (PQB News file photo)

Students have been training on the dilapidated cinder-track at the Ballenas Secondary. There’s now a plan to upgrade the facility to a six-lane rubberized track. (PQB News file photo)

Qualicum Beach council agrees to donate $56K toward Ballenas track upgrade

Lack of data leads staff to recommend town pay 10 per cent of the cost

The Town of Qualicum Beach has voted to contribute $56,400 towards the Ballenas Secondary track project.

But they didn’t have to, based on the staff report presented to staff at their regular council meeting on July 21.

Director of finance John Marsh told council staff had difficulties writing the report because there are no usage statistics or data available on public use of the Ballenas track.

Town staff encountered difficulty applying an existing funding formula used to gauge how much funds are allocated for the use of RDN recreational facilities that include Oceanside Place, Ravensong Aquatic Centre, regional parks and Northern Community Recreation. Marsh said each one has a different criteria applied and each is based on usage statistics.

Marsh said staff was also concerned about public access limitations, as they track it is located on school district property. This will include its availability to the public during school hours and after school activities in the evenings.

READ MORE: RDN Parksville track project gains some traction

Staff did state in the report the Regional District of Nanaimo, which has committed to help fund the $1.5-million track upgrade, is currently working on a contribution agreement with School District 69 (Qualicum) to establish a formal commitment to ensure adequate public access to the site. It also covers capital funding for future repairs and annual operating funding

To determine how much the town should contribute to the track project, Marsh said staff took a hybrid approach. Marsh said it they use the funding formula for sports fields, the town would pay 15.6 per cent of the cost.

“Staff felt, and this is without data, that our usage would be lower than that because of the school site and most of the students in Qualicum Beach are in KSS (Kwalikum Secondary) not Ballenas,” said Marsh. “Therefore, it’s just a bit of an estimate, we took a 10 per cent figure. And if we were to pay 10 per cent of the cost of that track, it came out to $56,400. If we use the sports fields formula it would be $93,785.”

Council agreed with the 10 per cent contribution to the track cost but with some councillors expressing reservations.

Coun. Robert Filmer said he did not like the idea of spending taxpayer money on a project outside Qualicum Beach’s borders. He is supporting the funding, he said, mainly for the benefit of the students and youth.

Filmer hopes the school district will show the same courtesy and return the favour in future projects from the town.

Coun. Teunis Westbroek also wants neighbouring communities to be good neighbours and also play a part in helping out regional initiatives such as Arrowsmith Search and Rescue, the Hospice Society, the Qualicum Beach Airport and others.

“It seems to be, everybody is like when you go to a place for a drink and when the bill comes, everybody disappears and were sitting on the table,” Westbroek said. “It would be nice if they reciprocated.”

Coun. Anne Skipsey sees the social and health benefits of the track and supports upgrading the facility.

Mayor Brian Wiese also agrees it will help athletes in the district as well as provide a better recreational facility for seniors.

The plan to upgrade the dilapidated cinder track to a six-lane rubberized surface has already received funding commitments from RDN Electoral Area G (French Creek, San Pareil, Little Qualicum, Englishman River) for $32,000; Area H (Bowser, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay) for $21,000 and the City of Parksville for $250,000.

Community fundraising remains ongoing.

Michael.Briones@pqbnews.com

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