August 17, 2022 – For residents and visitors whose health and recreation needs rely on the Ravensong Aquatic Centre, the last two weeks of July 2022 may well be remembered as the days when dysfunctional governance of our Regional services reached an all-time low.
In a previous report, we pointed out that Parksville has not even landed on a chosen site for its recreation multiplex. It is actually worse that that. The latest City staff report concludes that none of the three Parksville sites under consideration are feasible. Siting within the Parksville Community Park would have to displace one or more existing activities. The second option is a chunk of private property that the owner has expressed no interest in selling, And the third suggested site is a retired municipal dump with unknown contamination issues and which is currently prohibited from development. Maybe these three non-starters were suggested for a reason?
As we have also reported previously (see list below), renovations at the existing RDN Ravensong Aquatic Centre in Qualicum Beach, as well as plans for increased capacity somewhere in District 69, have been stumbling along for years, increasingly a text book case of incompetence writ large.
User fees cover only a portion of the total capital and operating costs of this service. Property taxes cover the rest, with occasional financial assistance through grants from provincial or federal taxpayers. Costs for region-wide services like schools and waste management are shared by all property owners across the Region. When constructed in 1995, Ravensong was intended to serve District 69 (Parksville, Qualicum Beach, and Areas E, F, G, H). Pools in the City of Nanaimo are intended to serve our southern neighbours. Hence, the resulting property tax burden for Ravensong was to be shared only by District 69 property owners, i.e., if you reside in District 69, you pay your share, whether you swim or not. Unfortunately, some 27 years ago, someone decided to exempt Area E (Nanoose) from contributing their share.
Neither the RDN’s CAO Doug Holmes nor its Board of Directors have demonstrated the necessary and expected leadership to resolve this archaic exemption for Area E. If readers want to witness 50 minutes of jaw-dropping futility, please tune into the RDN Board discussion at its July 26, 2022 meeting – select agenda item 10.8 shown below.
Bottom-line: A veto by Area E Director Bob Rogers, plus an unfathomable decision that a referendum is required to decide whether Area E is obliged to pay its share or not, will pre-empt the RDN’s ability to place the requisite Phase 1 (Ravensong renovations) borrowing question on the October 15, 2022 ballot.
That was the upshot of the July 26, 2022 RDN Board meeting. Maybe that potential pool in Parksville can save the day. Well, not if the City of Parksville Council meeting held the week before on July 18, 2022 is any indication.
Catch City Council’s reaction to the latest “bad news” staff report by selecting the agenda item shown below.
Councillor Doug O’Brien pulled the emergency brake on the project with: “I would just like to receive the report [for information] as provided and leave it at that, with no further instruction to staff to pursue anything further at this point. I believe it is best left, quite frankly, with the current staff workload, for the next Council after the October election to take it to the next step.”
No-one else spoke up. Mayor Ed Mayne remained uncharacteristically quiet in comparison to his full-throated promotion of his City’s proposed pool project at previous Oceanside Services Committee meetings.
Two days later, at Qualicum Beach Town Council’s July 20, 2022 meeting, Councillor Teunis Westbroek netted out the situation this way: “We’ve been talking about the pool expansion for some time. By dawdling and delaying it’s costing us twice as much now than it did when we first [planned], maybe three times as much. It was so frustrating. We had a resolution at the [RDN] Board when I was on the Board four years ago – here’s what we are going to do. And then … well, maybe we should take another look, and maybe have a Parksville pool and all that. And now it’s going to cost two and a half, maybe three, times more than we first thought. And we had contracts to do it. As someone who was there four years ago, we had a plan, we had a cost estimate, we did a tour, we knew what we wanted, and then to have it delayed and now cost twice as much is really unfair to the taxpayers.”
It will be interesting to see if this fiasco influences those taxpayers when they cast their votes on October 15, 2022. It could make for a rough ride for incumbents.
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Ravensong upgrade gets go-ahead Jun 30, 2022