Source: Westman Zone News
Tonight's city council meeting at city hall should prove to be interesting with a possible vociferous edge to it. That is if things transpire any way like the start of the public meeting held at Park Community Centre earlier this week. On the agenda for the council to discuss is the future of the venue located at the long-standing facility located at the corner of 15th Street and Louise Avenue.
The latest tension on this issue was fueled by comments Rosser Ward councillor Kris Desjarlais stated near the conclusion of the public meeting held Tuesday, February 28th. He stated to the residents in his ward who wish to have the Park Community Centre remain a part of their neighbourhood to “fill city council chambers Monday night for the vote that will determine the future of the centre.” The mounting pressure comes from both sides facing it and moving toward a solution. One side of the issue is the residents in the area who don’t want to have part a huge part of their neighbourhood’s history erased. The other side is a city council faced with the financially prudent question surrounding the feasibility of a possible rebuild.
The construction of the original facility was completed in December 1946, the current building has been standing since 1961 and is a centrally located hub near Brandon’s core area. It serves as a multi-faceted venue purposed for everything from barbecues and birthday parties to committee meetings and craft sales and even full-fledged music-based events.
Lyall McDermid VP of the Park Community Centre Board says, “Residents in the area are very much in favour of rebuilding the venue.” It's hard to believe a facility that gets used as much as the Park Community Centre could be demolished in favour of green space which is one scenario discussed by some in attendance at the public meeting for the PCC. While others get the feeling city council just wants to save money or prevent further headaches. There have also been unconfirmed rumblings of repurposing the space for a future housing complex to accommodate a growing population of newcomers to the city. “The community doesn’t want more green space it already has that. To tear down history and cover it in grass… that’s a tragedy,” said McDermid. “I believe parts of city council have hidden agendas for the space or the funds set aside. They continually change the rules for us and the process to rebuild,” McDermid said.
Three years ago, an online petition to save the Park from being turned into green space garnered nearly 3,000 signatures as area residents were in favour of having the community centre rebuilt. It was at this time city council cited the dilapidated conditions of the building, particularly the weakening centre floor beam, as reason enough to demolish the building. Then there is the sheer feasibility of the matter since replacing the beam would come at a cost of $130,000 while the demolition cost would be between $70,000 and $100,000. It should be noted, repairs to the roof and the need for a new HVAC system would be needed and come in at a combined cost of approximately $150,000. Source: City council report from November 2019.
The city council went as far as starting the tender process to rebuild the facility, but the lowest bid (from a local company) was still $300,000 higher than the projected cost of the project. “They wanted quotes to rebuild then immediately said it was over budget,” McDermid said. It can’t come down to a use it or lose it scenario with the Park since bookings for the facility have been frequent over the years. However, the venue’s three ice rinks (including an NHL regulation-sized rink) have gone by the wayside over the years for that very reason. “You name the occasion or event, we’ve had it here at the Park over the years. From the hockey tournaments and carnivals way back in the day to more recently Ridgefest fundraising socials and birthday parties etc. I even had my wedding social here!” McDermid said.
The consensus from all who attended the Tuesday night meeting was to rebuild the centre. Council will vote on the issue during its meeting at City Hall Monday night. When asked for comment at the Tuesday night meeting, Mayor Fawcett said concerned residents in the Rosser Ward will have their thoughts voiced by councillor Desjarlais at the city council meeting.
When reached for comment about the possibility of coming up with the funding to secure the lowest bid to rebuild, Rosser Ward councillor Kris Desjarlais said, “I suspect administration will give us options Monday on how to fund the project.” In years past, upgrading the facility was partially covered by fundraising efforts from area residents. When asked if this could be an option this time around for the Park Desjarlais said, “I don’t think we should expect residents to raise the shortfall by a certain time. Perhaps a symbolic gesture that they pay back some amount each year.” Tonight’s (March, 6th) bi-weekly council meeting at city hall starts at 7:00 p.m. You will be able to access the live feed from www.westmancom.com. If the turnout is anything like we saw Tuesday at Park Community Centre, we can expect a vocal crowd to say the least.