Regional district to look at selling Strathcona Gardens to the city

Campbell River mayor wants a report to look into the costs and feasibility of the regional district selling Strathcona Gardens

Campbell River councillors say every attempt by the city to try and co-ordinate recreational programs with the Strathcona Regional District in order to save taxpayers money has been thwarted and now regional directors want to look at selling Strathcona Gardens.

Director and city councillor Claire Moglove said at last week’s regional district board meeting that often recreation programs offered at city facilities can also be found at Strathcona Gardens.

“There is duplicity of service, there is duplicity of programs,” Moglove said. “We, the City of Campbell River, are trying the best we can to have a regional function so that everyone would benefit and in my view the city has been stymied at every step along the way.”

The city asked the regional district last year to participate in a joint review of recreational services to determine if there is a way to better co-ordinate programs and activities.

But the regional district balked, with electoral directors refusing to pay the money for what it viewed as the city trying to get a better hold on its recreational facilities and programs.

Director Walter Jakeway, and city mayor, suggested the regional district consider selling Strathcona Gardens to the city after lengthy discussions during financial planning over a human resource position at Strathcona Gardens, which the Strathcona Gardens Commission (which runs the complex) did not want but others on the regional district board did.

“After listening to all the anguish the board was going through over the last several months about money to fix the arena floor, the HR position, and such, I thought to maybe look at selling Strathcona Gardens would offload a lot of money and anguish for the regional district,” Jakeway said.

“The city could use its horse power to modernize it. It needs a facelift and I doubt the regional district is able to afford that, where the city could probably do it through grants.”

That raised the ire of Brenda Leigh, director for Area D which has helped fund Strathcona Gardens and will be contributing $515,000 of a $3.4 million budget in 2013.

“Strathcona Gardens is one of the best run organizations in the region…there is no anguish going on,” Leigh said.

“The only anguish going on is an employee phoning me saying there’s rumours going around that the regional district is going to abandon them. I don’t think the city’s thinking clearly by how much they benefit by having Strathcona Gardens as a regional facility and how much they benefit by Area D’s contribution to that facility.”

Moglove agreed the city would miss Area D’s contribution and said that while she understood where Jakeway was coming from, she would prefer to see the facility further expanded as a regional service.

“I think Director Jakeway, because of the length of time it’s taken to get anything going, said ‘okay, let’s buy it and see what happens,’” Moglove said.

“Only three things can happen – let’s leave it as it is, the city buys it or the Strathcona Regional District contracts it out to the city. I think we need a report (from staff). I’m not personally in favour of the city buying Strathcona Gardens but we need to do something.”

Directors John MacDonald (Sayward) and Gerald Whalley (Kyuquot-Sayward) were in favour of selling Strathcona Gardens to the city, as both represent areas detached from Strathcona Gardens.

But Whalley said that is changing as the Strathcona Gardens Human Resource position is being funded from the regional district’s administration budget and not the Strathcona Gardens budget, much to his dismay.

“Now that Area A, with every other director at this table, is paying for the HR position, I become a participant and I don’t want to become a participant,” Whalley said.

“Director Jakeway’s report shows me how I can get out of this.”

In the end the board voted in favour of a report from regional district staff investigating the feasibility, costs, and implications of having the city purchase Strathcona Gardens.

Directors Jim Abram, Noba Anderson, Craig Anderson, Ryan Mennie, and Leigh were opposed to Jakeway’s motion for a report.