‘Why now?’ asks Centre staffer as date for Y plan delayed

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Crystal Colvin wonders why the Town of Petrolia YMCA to consider running the Oil Heritage District Community Centre.
Colvin, who is medical exercise specialist at The Centre, spoke to council about the possibility of the Y taking over the management the community centre.
On Oct. 25, the Town of Petrolia announced it had a memorandum of agreement with the YMCA to explore the possibilities of the Y running The Centre with an eye to reducing the $450,000 yearly deficit. Officials said at the time discussions about the possibilities had been going on for a number of months.
The next day, the Y started a consultation process with the community which saw about 75 people answer questions about what they want to see at The Centre.
But Colvin says she listened “with my head and my heart” to the concerns of her clients who are unsure why the town is making the move. It’s a question she’s asked, too.
“Why now? What was the motivation?” she asked noting it seemed strange among “all the political turmoil.”
Colvin wondered what other options the town had considered to make improvements to the bottom line of the centre. She suggested a community fundraising group could be set up to help offset the costs and provide additional funding for those who can afford a membership.
She also questioned if the town could have done more to promote the community centre.
“Have you looked at other avenues to maintain complete control?” she asked.
“Is the answer being sold out to a big corporation?
“Is the answers in the YMCA taking over or in the community investing in what we have?”
Colvin acknowledges The Centre would benefit from having a manager on site but says the town could hire a qualified individual with a background in managing a community centre itself if it provided “competitive wages and benefit package to attract someone.”
While councillors acknowledged Colvin’s passion for service, Tim Brown told her the Y would not be taking over. ‘This isn’t a takeover. I consider this a partnership more than a takeover. A takeover is when someone comes in and there is no say. They wouldn’t take over our building and we could get out (of the agreement) at anytime,” Brown says.
He added the town needed to consider this after seeing figures which project it could lose $750,000 a year in seven to 10 years. “That’s a big cost.”
Meantime it will take longer than planned to figure out if the YMCA will run the Centre.
The YMCA was expected to give the town a proposal in early December with a vote on the prospect before the end of the year.
But the town’s director of marketing, Laurissa Ellsworth, says a public meeting is now planned for Jan. 15 so the YMCA’s draft report can be viewed by the public. There will also be a special council meeting on Jan. 22 to make a final decision.
Ellsworth told councillors Monday the extra time was needed to ensure a full consultation with the public and all interested parties and that council has all of the information needed to make an informed decision.
The proposal will also be available for the public to read on the town’s website 48 hours before the public meeting.

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