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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

Wakefield community centre eyeing municipal takeover

Board members of the Centre Wakefield La Pêche have a big decision to make.


Will they finally ask for municipal help or will they continue to try to maintain the expensive and demanding Wakefield community centre building, with its ongoing repairs and maintenance costs?


That was the question asked during a public information session on June 21, where board members unveiled a new, three-year renewal plan. Within it is a draft agreement, drawn up by the municipality, for La Pêche to take over management of the Centre Wakefield La Pêche building.


“Part of the renewal plan is a recognition that we are actually not sustainable on many fronts,” said Centre Wakefield La Pêche board president Vicki Carlan. She elaborated by saying that the board struggles with sound governance, managing volunteers and staff and – the biggest challenge – financial stability.


“[Financial stability] really is the pressing one. We celebrated the 10th anniversary and it was a really great celebration, but buildings get old,” said Carlan. “Overall, we are in a pretty good situation, but in a one to five-year timeline and in some cases one to two years, there are some things that we must fix. There are some foundational issues that need to be addressed. The roof is the big one. There is an immediate roof fix.”


Carlan explained that roof repairs will cost around $7,500; a new roof, which is needed in the next few years, will cost north of half a million dollars.


It’s costs like these that have board members looking at various models to keep the centre chugging. And while they have reached out to the municipality to see what a partnership model would look like, Carlan stressed that this is “not a done deal.”


“Members and the community can still be involved in developing an alternative sustainability solution,” said Carlan. “Sharing the information [at the meeting] was one step forward to provide members with the information they need to make an informed decision. We really need to make a decision this fall, and everyone to feel good about it. That is what the board is working towards.”


Readers may recall how rocky things have been at the Wakefield community centre over the past few years, as board members fired two executive directors within a few months of each other; one of them – Carolyn Nolan – was fired two days before Christmas, after an ugly email exchange went public.


According to the draft agreement, La Pêche would basically become the landlord of the building and would undertake all maintenance and repair costs, while leaving programming, rentals and other community decisions to the co-op. It would be similar to the arrangement that artists at Place des Arts Farrellton have entered into with the municipality: La Pêche is the landlord of the former Catholic school, which PAF took over in 2016 from the school board, while the artists run the art centre as they see fit.


“The municipality would own the building and see to its maintenance, but the operation of the activities – the staff that is there for animation and events – would be the co-op,” said Lamoureux.


He argues that the municipality taking over the building would be a boon for the co-op, as staffers within the municipality could take care of things like water issues or repairs, while community centre staff could focus more on community programming and ensuring the centre is open for families.


“We would put our resources to the building, and the co-op could see to the community services,” he said. “[The co-op] could focus its attention, not on the roof and plumbing and electricity, but community and event organizing and all that.”


Under the agreement, the co-op would transfer the ownership of the property to the municipality, and, “if necessary, develop a partnership model with the municipality for the programming at the Wakefield La Pêche Community Centre co-op.” The municipality would assume the mortgage payments and all fees associated with the transfer and would take on all maintenance fees of the building.


Carlan is putting a call out to community centre members to continue talking about the future of the centre and she encourages anyone with an idea to bring it forward, so that there will be options to consider when decision time comes this fall during the centre’s AGM.


“Nothing is set in stone, there are conversations happening and we will keep you informed,” said Carlan. “Talk amongst yourselves. Maybe there is an idea that has not been advanced sufficiently. If we can, we’ll look at it, but know that we have to make a decision this fall.”


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