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Community centre delay raises questions

Gimse affirms SLRD’s acquisition's plan



By Cindy Filipenko

Pemberton’s new community centre will not be opening its door until the end of this year.

Originally scheduled to open in September, the delay is the result of having to re-engineer the roof to accommodate alternate materials.

Asked how this delay would affect the budget, Pemberton’s mayor was confident that the change to the timeline would not have a negative effect on the building’s cost.

But potential project costs aren’t the primary concern for the community. A letter from the Pemberton Recreation Commission to the Village of Pemberton and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District outlined concerns about the potential loss of the existing community centre’s gymnasium. The facility, part of the old Pemberton high school, is well used, accommodating both children’s and adult indoor recreation programs.

“If indoor recreation programs are to be provided to the community in the future, it is imperative that we know, sooner or later, what facilities are to be available to us and on what terms, so that proper programming and planning can be made,” wrote Stephanie Coughlin, commission chair, in a correspondence to the VOP, SLRD and School District 48. The existing community centre sits on land owned by the school district.

A potential remedy for the situation would see Signal Hill Elementary and Pemberton Secondary schools’ gyms pressed into service.

“I assured (Coughlan) that we’d pursue the idea of community use of the schools at Joint Ops,” noted Mayor Sturdy.

Councillor Kristin McLeod said the closure of the existing community centre would have a negative effect on recreation by reducing the number of playing fields available. McLeod pointed out that existing fields are over-taxed and problems have emerged with the local elementary school track and field club having inadequate field access.

“We need to coordinate our efforts, take an inventory of fields and make some allocations,” said the mayor.

Councillor Jennie Helmer made an impassioned plea to begin negotiating with the school district to purchase the land on the current community centre site and find a way to maintain the existing gym, a sentiment echoed by McLeod.

“We’re building a new community centre that doesn’t accommodate what we already have,” said Helmer.

Mayor Sturdy held back his support for the idea based on fiscal concerns.

“What are the financial implications of keeping the gym? What about staffing? Maintenance? Can we operate two facilities?” asked the mayor.

While the VOP does not have a concrete plan on how to proceed, the SLRD does.

Area C Director Susie Gimse confirmed that the regional district has been in discussions about acquiring that land.

“They’ve been clear that they need space for the school buses, storage and maintenance,” said Gimse. “Once they’ve determined their space requirements, they’ll subdivide it off and we’d be in a position to purchase the property. At that time we’d determine the feasibility of maintaining the existing building.”

Area C has approximately $600,000 in IPP recreation amenity fees set aside to facilitate the purchase of the land.