The Parksville Community and Conference Centre is at a crossroads.
For starters, it is getting more scrutiny from city council than it has in years. The board of the society that operates the facility and its executive director might not like the attention or the tone, but it comes with the territory when 57 per cent of your budget comes from taxpayers.
And frankly, the society that runs the PCCC, and its executive director, haven’t faced much public/city council scrutiny in at least the last four years, so they are due.
At first glance, it’s easy to take aim at taxpayer-subsidized facilities like the PCCC. Why don’t they market themselves better? Why don’t they raise their rates? How can they keep expanding staff while they continue to ask for more in subsidies? Why should staff get automatic raises based on the cost of living instead of based on the centre’s performance? Why doesn’t the society aim to reduce the subsidy each year with an aggressive make-more-money plan instead of the public-trough-will-be-there-for-us stance?
First, it’s important to note the society that operates the PCCC is run by volunteer board members. These are community-minded people who give their time and effort for no financial gain. They hire an executive director to run the place and that, really, is the board’s most important task.
Secondly, the PCCC’s mandate is to operate as a community centre first and foremost. That means booking community non-profit groups ahead of more lucrative bookings like weddings or other private functions. Also, the way the agreement is worded, city hall essentially has the right of first refusal for booking dates.
It is the city, through its taxpayer representatives on council, that must change the mandate of the PCCC if it wants to see the facility make more money. That, as the society president pointed out Monday, would likely squeeze out some non-profit community groups.
As with most issues, there must be a middle ground here. We believe the PCCC needs to do a better job budgeting (it’s currently an illogical mess), a better job marketing and it needs to set goals that will reduce, not increase, the taxpayer subsidy. We believe that can be achieved without shutting the doors to community non-profit groups.
— Editorial by John Harding