School District 69 superintendent Keven Elder and secretary treasurer Ron Amos appeared as a delegation to the Oceanside Services Committee to provide details about the Ballenas Track Upgrade Project. (MIchael Briones photo)

Regional District of Nanaimo not ready to give $500K for Ballenas track upgrade

Directors want a variety of questions answered

The proposed project to upgrade the running track at Parksville’s Ballenas Secondary wasn’t able to a secure funding commitment from the Regional District of Nanaimo.

At the Oceanside Services Committee meeting held on Feb. 13 at Parksville council chambers, the electoral area directors and the RDN chairman were not willing to part with $500,000 to help build the track just yet.

The superintendent of School District 69, Keven Elder, appeared before the committee and provided plans for the project that aims to build a competitive eight-lane rubberized track. It will cost $1,740,000 but the plan is to raise approximately $2 million to allow for contingencies.

Elder provided the committee with information on the project and answered questions. The Oceanside track steering committee is hoping to secure funding commitments by the fall. Once that’s achieved, the plan is for construction to take place in early 2021 and complete the track by the fall of 2021.

It will be a regional amenity that would be used not only by the more than 4,000 students in District 69 but by thousands of others in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.

Elder also provided a breakdown of the construction estimates, a video of the dismal state of the track and plans to secure funding from provincial and federal grants and from other agencies were revealed.

Ron Amos, the school district’s secretary treasurer, pointed out to the directors that with the $200,ooo SD69 has already allocated to the track upgrade, and with the RDN donation of $500,000, that would give them a $700,000 total that they can use as a leverage to succesfully land grants.

READ MORE: Qualicum school district board reiterates support for 8-lane track at Ballenas Secondary

Directors raised a myriad of concerns that included maintenance costs, the lack of amenities such as toilet and dressings rooms, parking space, lighting, concerns from the residents, the cost of future replacement and repairs and where field events will be held.

Parksville mayor and director Ed Mayne wants concerns addressed before they can endorse the project financially.

He added the questions raised should have been addressed first before the request for $500,000 from the RDN was made. He feels the $2 million price tag will not be enough down the road.

Mayne also touched on the use of the track. Elder had indicated that the school will primarily be used during school hours and after school Monday to Friday and sometimes weekends. Mayne feels it will not give the community enough time to use it.

“For us to get any kind of returns on our investment, I would think that you’re going to need to put lighting in so we can use it in the evening time, just for us to get anything from our contribution,” said Mayne. “Otherwise this becomes a board of education track. With the significant contribution from the RDN, and I have a problem with that part of it.”

Elder said the project would greatly benefit if all the issues raised are referred to the RDN staff to help find the answers to their questions.

The chairman of the RDN, Ian Thorpe, was concerned about the lack of grassroots support from the community users. He pointed out that the track facility in Nanaimo was built through a partnership between the school board and the Nanaimo Track and Field Club.

“Your funding model seems to be the reverse. You’re looking for big money from the senior levels of government first and then hoping to get some additional funds from the community later,” Thorpe said. “I guess, personally, I would like to see, where’s the support from the track and field club and from the community that we could say, all right, there’s evidence that maybe we should support this. I would love to but I do worry about the finances. I am being honest.”

Elder explained that the Oceanside Track and Field Club has been the “largest single voice for the renewal of this facility for a very long time.” He added Oceanside club does not have the financial resources that the Nanaimo club has.

Parksville director Adam Fras made a motion that the RDN write a letter to the school district outlining what the RDN’s concerns and questions are that need to be answered before the request for funding could proceed. The motion passed.

The RDN is also not interested in becoming project manager of the Ballenas track upgrade.

“This is a school district initiative and we’re happy to provide advice and input but there’s no way this becomes one of our projects in my opinion,” said Thorpe.

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