JAN 21, 2022 – So what’s happening with the upgrade to Ravensong Pool, you wonder? Here’s our take.
First, the short-term improvements designed for Ravensong have changed very little in the past two years. Second, allowing the project to get derailed by the Parksville ambush has delayed the project by about 18 months in getting even the first phase underway. Third, this delay has probably caused an increase in construction costs of around a million dollars.
In our previous analysis of regional planning for aquatic services, Second Opinion QB reported that Parksville’s unilateral decision to build a major recreational facility, including aquatic services, had understandably thrown a spanner into the efforts of Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) staff to design and recommend upgrades to the existing Ravensong Aquatic Centre. Ravensong is located in Qualicum Beach but serves residents across District 69 and beyond.
The “Parksville ambush” continues to impede the Ravensong Pool upgrade
At the June 25, 2020 meeting of the Oceanside Services Committee (OSC), Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne had argued that no Ravensong expansion options should be presented to the public until ALL alternatives were on the table, including a brand-new pool in Parksville. “We’re moving along very quickly,” claimed Mayne at the time.“We’re at the design stage… we’re practically at the same spot as the Region is with their swimming pool [Ravensong]. We’ve done that in 3 or 4 months. We’re there — we’re going to be having our pricing and things ready to go shortly.”
That was 18 months ago. As it turns out, Mayne still hasn’t got “pricing and things ready to go.”
Parksville’s intended site turned out to be non-starter. Apparently they have not yet landed on an alternate location. According to a recent report from Dean Banman, RDN Manager of Recreation Services, Parksville’s completion of community engagement, design, costing, and funding options for an aquatic/multiplex might not be completed until the end of 2022 — a full two years after Mayne claimed they were “ready to go shortly.”
At the time, the RDN could have said OK, we’ll just do the required renovations at Ravensong as a first phase, and defer any creation of extra pool capacity until Parksville gets their act together. Such is 20/20 hindsight. However, the leadership required by the politicians responsible to move forward in this practical manner was not there. Not then and, it seems, not now.
The stalling effect of Mayne’s disinformation continues, as demonstrated by this recent comment from new RDN CAO Douglas Holmes: “Given there’s been some building momentum on the conversation about an aquatic centre in Parksville, we feel very reluctant to make a recommendation on any construction changes to Ravensong until we really understand the implications of that.” So apparently RDN Directors Mayne and Adam Fras, representing Parksville on the Oceanside Services Committee (OSC) and the RDN Board, get to control the aquatic services agenda for the rest of us in District 69.
Oceanside Services Committee pushes on
At their meeting on November 22, 2021, OSC Directors debated how to draft a budget for aquatic services given the continuing uncertainty about Parksville’s plan and commitments. Director Mayne (surprise, surprise) repeatedly pushed to defer for a few months, arguing that no draft budgeting ought to be done because not enough is known for certain yet. Fool me once… fool me again, and again?
The other District 69 Directors persevered in recommending that “the financial planning for Phase 1 of Option OO [as in Original Option] expansion to Ravensong Aquatic Centre, including funding for a referendum [borrowing], continue within the 2022 Financial Plan.” The full RDN Board adopted their recommended motion on December 7, 2021.
Area E will finally share in the costs of Ravensong
There has been a concerted push, dating back to February 2021, led by Area G Director Lehann Wallace for an informed discussion and decision on fair apportionment of aquatic services costs — specifically pointing out the need to amend the current funding by-law that permits Area E property owners (Nanoose, Fairwinds) to contribute no property tax levy for aquatic services at either Ravensong or pools in the City of Nanaimo. On December 14, 2021 the RDN Board hammered out a formula and commitment to finally have Area E pay its fair share.
The RDN’s 2022-2026 Financial Plan, which was also adopted at the December 14 Board meeting, includes Ravensong capital expenditures of about $20 million, with Phase 1 work expected in 2023.
Meanwhile, the City of Parksville has not yet tabled even a draft 2022 budget, so we are unable to comment on the fifty-million dollar question: Who does Parksville expect to pay for construction, operation, and maintenance of their proposed aquatic/multiplex project?
The City of Parksville’s website does not appear to include any capital or operating cost estimates for their proposed pool facility with any of the City’s budget documents currently posted. This question ought to have been discussed and resolved long before now, with an answer that is fair and accepted by municipal leaders across District 69, and with full disclosure to the public.
An opportunity for leadership arises
On March 19, 2021 we closed our first article, Has the Ravensong Pool upgrade run up on the rocks?, with this observation: “This fiasco has been allowed to go on, indeed has been enabled, by the three Chief Administrative Officers — the RDN CAO Phyllis Carlyle, City of Parksville CAO Keeva Kehler, and Town of Qualicum Beach CAO Daniel Sailland. They are responsible for making the mess, they need to clean up the mess, and they need to do it pronto.”
It’s still a mess, but two of these three CAOs have since departed. Maybe our dashed hopes can be renewed?
RDN Manager of Recreational Services, Dean Banman, in his latest report to the Oceanside Services Committee summed up the situation well: “Coordinated planning to address the need for additional aquatic space in [District 69] is essential to responsibly meet the needs of residents. For either an expansion to Ravensong Aquatic Centre or a separate aquatic/multiplex project to be successful, more coordination and discussion on the part of staff and elected officials at the RDN, City of Parksville and Town of Qualicum Beach is required.”