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Pemberton wants action after rejecting rec centre proposal

Recreation remains a huge issue for area residents

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The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District might have scuttled any plans for a community centre in Pemberton but the residents are as motivated as they have ever been to see some action.

Last week the people who live in Pemberton and Area C of the SLRD soundly defeated a bylaw that would have allowed the SLRD and Village of Pemberton to borrow $2.5 million to build a community centre.

After the bylaw was rejected the SLRD held a special meeting and effectively put a stop to all plans for a community centre and discarded a $1.1 million grant they had obtained to help with the costs of the centre.

But despite the vote of no confidence in the plan presented many residents want the SLRD and Village of Pemberton to capitalize on the heightened awareness of the issue, promptly devise a new plan and apply for a new grant or get the old grant extended.

Local governments, community organizations and residents have been trying to build a new community centre in Pemberton since the early 1990s. Time, money and the absence of a sizeable tax-base has prevented several community centre plans from gaining momentum.

But according to many residents this most recent attempt failed due to a lack of consultation.

Lorine Mason, who together with her husband Ray has set up an e-mail address – pembertonrecreation@hotmail.com – to inform people of any recreation centre developments, was appalled by the lack of community consultation.

"We’ve owned property in Pemberton since 1994 and it seems like this has been going on forever," said Mason. "We helped get ("no") petitions signed but some of our friends didn’t sign it because they said they didn’t care what they built as long as it was something.

"And I think the community would have supported anything except the one plan they gave us."

Mason said the SLRD and Village of Pemberton had done a terrible job "selling it" because, like many of her friends, she didn’t know what was happening until the last moment.

"If you don’t go to the community beforehand, how are you going to get a positive response?"

One of the reasons this community centre failed was because it took the SLRD and Pemberton so long to secure the $1.1 million provincial/federal government grant. And then when they did get the grant one of the conditions was that the community centre had to be finished by March 2006. The result, according to Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner, was a lot of rushing.

The $1.1 million grant is now largely irrelevant because the SLRD has voted to start again, but the grant fund manager, Kirk Handrahan, said the money would remain if the project was finished by March 2006.

Handrahan, who is the manager of the Canada/British Columbia Infrastructure Program, said the community would simply have to demonstrate that it can still make the project work.

"The funding is conditioned on them doing what they proposed to do by March 2006," said Handrahan.

He also said that the grant comes from a program that wouldn’t disappear come March 2006.

"This grant comes from the… Canada/BC infrastructure program, it’s a federal-provincial agreement that provides up to two-thirds of the funding for local government projects that meet our criteria and are approved by management committee."

Jordan Sturdy, chairman of the Pemberton Dyking District, regularly attends council meetings and even he admitted the situation was hard to understand.

"I think the community is absolutely in favour of a recreation centre," said Sturdy. "If you look at that petition, the way that’s supposed to work is that it simply forces a referendum on the issue, but they (the SLRD) didn’t see it like that for some reason and pulled the pin, and I think that’s completely wrong.

"You’ve also got to remember that in the original proposal they were going to get the $1.1 million grant and then we were going to spend another $500,000 and that was going to be it.

"Then all of sudden it doubled to $3.6 million and nothing changed other than the building got fancy.

"So what happened there? I really don’t understand it."

Mayor Warner said the council had sent a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell asking for a meeting to discuss the community centre.

"We want more money because we want to be able to deliver what the people want and we can’t do that with $1.1m," said Warner.

"So have we thrown the towel in? No, I haven’t, we’re working very hard on trying to get the project back to where we can move forward."

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