The District 69 Recreation Commission will be scrapped.
The Regional District of Nanaimo board, at its committee of the whole on Tuesday, April 9, decided to get rid of the commission along with the District 69 Community Justice Select Committee and the Northern Community Economic Development Select Committee.
The board passed a motion presented by Electoral Area E (Nanoose Bay) director Bob Rogers to direct staff to report on establishing a new Northern Communities Select Committee, comprised of the RDN directors for Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Electoral Areas E, F, G, and H to replace the roles and responsibilities of the three District 69 advisory groups.
The vote, however, was not unanimous as Electoral Area C (Extension, East Wellington, Pleasant Valley) director Maureen Young, alternate director for Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington) Julian Fell, and Area H (Shaw Hill, Deep Bay, Bowser) director Stuart McLean went against the motion.
The elimination of the District 69 Recreation Commission has also rendered redundant the motion asking the board proceed with the original recommendations of the Oceanside Recreation and Sport Infrastructure Committee without delay. That is to look at upgrading the overcrowded Ravensong Aquatic Centre, building a rubberized track of up to eight lanes at Ballenas Secondary, and a centralized land acquisition strategy for a future indoor/outdoor sport and recreation complex. The board did not vote on this motion.
Recreation commissioner for Area F, Reg Nosworthy, tendered his resignation at the RDN on Wednesday, April 10.
“I have had enough,” said Nosworthy, who has been involved with the commission for 20 years. “I wanted to leave on my terms not on theirs.”
Commissioner for Area G, Randy White, also expressed disappointment with the RDN’s decision.
“The action taken ensures that unelected people will not be on the recreation commission but this is only the tip of the iceberg for the difficulties that will appear in Qualicum and Parksville in the future,” said White.
Rogers said they recognized the significant efforts rendered by the commission in identifying some priorities from District 69 Recreation Master Plan. However, eventually, Rogers said, it is the board and the councils from the two municipalities that make the decisions to move things forward.
The new committee, Rogers explained, will be able to deal with multiple issues concerning District 69 communities and will be open to the public.
“It will give an improved governance but at the same time maintain our core values of being open to the public, inviting the people to comment, recommendations and suggestions,” said Rogers.
Parksville Mayor and director Ed Mayne pointed out taxpayers from the two municipalities and electoral areas contribute $5.6 million to the recreation commission and requires RDN directors to oversee it.
“Overall it should be the elected representatives that have the say about how the money is being spent from our communities, not assigned appointed volunteers,” ” said Mayne. “They all have done a great job in the past but the reality here is that, we as the elected representatives have taken on the responsibility of overseeing how our money is being spent.”
Fell said the recreation commission plays a vital and special role in District 69 but it does not decide how to spend $5.6 million. He pointed out that it’s the RDN board that makes that decision.
“It [commission] simply makes recommendations about certain projects and it should be very well researched by the members of the committee,” said Fell. “They put in a lot more time than I could as a director. They’ve had some very good success in the past.”
Fell indicated that he is in favour of forming a new committee but wanted the board not to eliminate the recreation commission. He made that amendment to Roger’s motion but it was defeated.
Staff will present its report regarding the establishment of a new committee at the RDN board meeting on April 23. The board also suspended future recreation commission meetings until the staff report is received. The April 18 recreation commission meeting has been cancelled.