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

Kirk Walper resigns; society officials have been facing tough questions from city council

The president of the society that operates the embattled Parksville Community and Conference Centre has resigned.

Kirk Walper gave the society his resignation letter last week. Walper and PCCC executive director Margaret Spruitt have appeared before city council twice this month and faced a tough line of questioning about the facility’s budget and direction from councillors.

The PCCC’s 2016 budget was approved by council this month — the vote was 5-1 with Coun. Sue Powell opposed. The PCCC expects to have $431,258 of income in 2016, $247,294 (57 per cent) of which comes from the taxpayers of the city in the form of a subsidy.

Council had a staff recommendation at that same Dec. 8 meeting to renew the operating agreement between the city and the society for five years, but tabled that motion. The current agreement expires Dec. 31.

Kirk Oates is the councillor who serves as the liaison to the PCCC society. He said of Walper’s letter of resignation: “it’s not flattering.” He also said he’s hopeful the society’s board “can elect a new board and get on with business.”

Oates also said the roughly $250,000 the society gets in taxpayer dollars every year “jumps out at you in the budget.” He also said he believes the centre could generate more revenue.

“Given the amount of time the lights are off over there, it would lead you to believe we could get more revenue out of the place.”

Both Oates and Walper said there needs to be a better understanding by everyone, some clarity, regarding the centre’s mandate. In an appearance before council earlier this month, Walper spoke about the differences between a community centre model and a conference centre model, suggesting more focus on the latter to generate more revenue would squeeze non-profit community groups out of the centre.

“Maybe this ($250,000 annually) is the cost of doing business and we have to just suck it up,” said Oates.

In an interview a day after submitting his resignation letter, Walper said he was “frustrated with how a couple of things were handled.” He also said he resigned because the president’s position was demanding more time recently than he was able to commit. He also defended the centre’s operations.

“I don’t think there’s a big problem in what’s happening at the centre,” said Walper. “I think it’s operating very efficiently. I don’t know that there’s much more business out there to pick up. If its duty is to be a community centre, I think it does a good job at that.”

“If there are changes to happen here, I’m not the one to spearhead it.”

Mayor Marc Lefebvre said “it’s time to revisit the operating agreement” between the city and the society. He also said there may be ways the centre could bring in more business. “I’m just one member of council,” said the mayor, “but I think we have to consider the revenue side.”

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