Y may run Petrolia’s community centre


The Town of Petrolia has been in talks with the YMCA to run the Oil Heritage District Community Centre for months.
The town and the Y made the announcement in a news release at 5 pm Wednesday afternoon, 19 hours before the public consultations began.
In a news release, the town says they have been in “early discussions” with the Y which have been “positive and reflect the opportunity to pursue the health and wellness focus that both council and staff have for Petrolia.”
Shawn Dillon of the YMCA and Richard Poore, director of cultural services who oversees The Centre, went to the Boomers Club the day after the announcement to seek input.
Some were interested to know whether their seniors program would continue. Dillon says it is one of the areas the town has asked the Y to maintain in any plan it will propose to council.
Others were concerned about fee hikes, saying the Y’s prices seem to be higher than at The Centre.
Dillon says Y memberships are all inclusive adding no one is turned away because they can’t afford it.
Pharmacist Bob Newman suggested the Y should consider cardiac rehab programs at The Centre so people won’t have to travel to Sarnia. Dillon says some of the other YMCAs in southwestern Ontario have had heart health programs.
One of the major concerns online was for current staff.
Officials said employees “are being provided notice of the discussions” and the town says the Y has committed to providing first consideration to all “current, qualified staff…to fulfill all available roles… Existing town staff will have first opportunity to be interviewed for and considered for job openings with the YMCA in Petrolia.
There is no indication yet if the same number of jobs will be available.
Online postings on the town’s Facebook page criticized the timing of the announcement. The news release arrived at The Independent at 5:08 pm Wednesday, while staff members were still in a meeting hearing about the possible changes. One man said staff had read about the consultations online before hearing about it from the town.
Poore told The Independent after the meeting with The Boomers “it has been months of going back and forth” between the town to get to this point. He added a memorandum of understanding has been agreed to with the Y. The issue has not yet come before an open council meeting.
Calls to Petrolia Mayor John McCharles on the issue were not returned by press time.
A number of public meetings have been set up in the next few weeks. The Y is scheduled to present a proposal to the town in December and could take over operation of The Centre as early as March. Dillon says the town would continue to own the building and maintain it.
Poore added if the Y takes over the operation of The Centre, he expects the town will continue to have to make an investment. Currently, The Centre runs a deficit of about $450,000 a year.