EDITORIAL: Tests of transparency

Will Parksville city council be open about what's happening with the community centre and possible land for a facility to help homeless?

It will be interesting to see how the City of Parksville handles two sensitive and important issues that will be pushed back into the spotlight this month.

The local Homelessness Task Force is expected to finish a feasibility study funded by the province this month. Members of the task force have told city council the next step is the city providing a parcel of land for a facility that will provide housing and services for the homeless and others in need.

Mayor Marc Lefebvre spoke about meeting behind closed doors to discuss land for the facility. For obvious reasons, we have no idea what was discussed in that meeting, or if it even occurred.

When there is an information void, people will fill it. In this case, it would be fair to speculate about the city-owned land at the corner of Jensen Avenue and Alberni Highway. It certainly fits the location criteria for a homeless shelter/housing facility — it is close to services in the downtown core.

That piece of land is so high-profile and serves as a welcoming point to the downtown shopping area. Is a homeless shelter the best use of that land? We’re not sure taxpayers would be in favour of that location, but it’s low-hanging fruit for a city council that has — despite some campaign promises — ignored the potential of this site. We would rather see the city put out a request for proposals for that site to see if there are some good ideas out there and we can only imagine the public outcry if land is chosen without any public input or discussion.

Secondly, the KPMG report on the operations and management of the Parksville Community and Conference Centre (PCCC) is due this month.

The report should shed light on the potential for the facility and if it’s being properly marketed and managed. Some city councillors, you may recall, were not happy with the annual taxpayer subsidy ($250,000, 57 per cent of the PCCC’s revenue) going to the facility, especially considering this number wasn’t expected to decrease in the future. Council met behind closed doors on this issue as well, which we found odd considering a non-profit society, and not the city, is in charge of PCCC operations.

We want to believe openness and transparency will guide council and staff as these two issues come to the forefront this month. Unfortunately, this mayor and council and staff has repeatedly demonstrated their preference to have any kind of contentious debate far away from the eyes and ears of taxpayers and the media.

— Editorial by John Harding

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