City Council Wrapup: Silver Lining To Pasqua Closure Cloud, Census Screwjob

Pasqua Neighbourhood Recreation Centre will be closed and Councillor Bryce, whose ward this in, is not amused.

Hers was the lone vote against the move. (As far as I could tell. Votes are done with a quick show of hands. It’s possible I missed one on the left side of the room. If so. My apologies to the forgotten dissenter.)

It was pointed out by the mayor and others though (and this is the silver lining in the closure cloud mentioned in the header) that along with the closure of the Centre, the city will be embarking on a visioning process to redevelop Regent Park to make it a community hub. Possible improvements include an accessible play structure, a spray pad, picnic area, skateboard facility, and a new basketball court. So, the neighbourhood will be losing a decrepit building but will likely gain some new facilities out of this.

Fair trade? You tell me.

Still, Bryce’s concern was that this visioning is only being done now, after the Pasqua Centre is all but closed. Plus, after questioning administration, she learned the money saved from the centre’s closure will not be remaining in the community.  Seeing as that neighbourhood is a low income one that really needs community facilities, her hope was that the thousands saved from the decommissioning would be set aside for supporting the area. (Many others on council agreed with her on this.)

Other fun facts to come out of the discussion of this report:
• This is the first time council has decommissioned a community centre.
• The Pasqua Centre was once a school (as Barb pointed out in comments to an earlier post). It was one of four built around the same time. The other three were torn down long ago. Clearly, these were disposable buildings.
• There was also something about the last time the city built a community centre was like 30 years ago but I’m going to have to double check that because that can’t be right.

Everyone who spoke on the closure expressed regret but ultimately the hefty bill to maintain the building was the deciding factor and the Pasqua Neighbourhood Recreation Centre is now slated to be shut down effective June 30, 2011.

Meanwhile, right near the end of tonight’s meeting, Councillor Clipsham embarked upon an interesting line of questioning over the apartment building slated for Scarth and 15th. He’d heard from many in the community that they would prefer to see that building be affordable rental (it’s going to be high-end condos).

With that in mind, he wanted to know if the city administration would be able to find out what the percentage of housing is rental and affordable in the downtown and adjacent areas. Then he pointed out that we’d be able to get that information from the 2001 and 2006 censuses.

That however raised the issue of the current census which Harper’s Conservatives have decided will be a voluntary one and thus the quality of the data harvested from it will be of questionable quality.

City staff pointed out that they will have to assess whether this year’s census data will be usable in their planning processes and pointed out that they will have to consider commissioning other surveys “which will have a resource impact on the city.”

So… Harper and pals told us they were just trying to protect our privacy by making the census voluntary and, hey, no worries anyway because the census is one of those things that’s only used by tweed-wearing academics who love to leach off the public teat.

Turns out though that what the feds have actually done is succeeded in downloading one more public service onto municipalities.

Nice!

All the other items on tonight’s agenda were approved including the $25,000 in operating funds for the RCMP Heritage Centre, the Hawkstone concept plan, the Pasqua Hospital parking lot, the back alley maintenance levy increase, the Greens on Gardner Phase II and the collective agreements with city workers.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

6 thoughts on “City Council Wrapup: Silver Lining To Pasqua Closure Cloud, Census Screwjob”

  1. Last evening, when City Council was discussing the apartment development on Scarth/15th (overlooking Central Park), one Councillor stood up and said she/he had looked on Google StreetView and liked all the trees he/she saw in front of the proposed development. The Councillor then asked the City Administration if the trees are still there. (It’s 5 blocks from City Hall.) I applaud the City Admin person who calmly and professionally answered this question.

  2. 1. Pasqua Rec Centre. I’m wondering if all of the programs that use that building will be relocated or halted. Also, I can see where giving up on the building might be an appealing idea if it is in poor shape… if you end up building a new structure and attach it to an existing hub in the community such as a school. I think the last community centre to be built was the one in Uplands that is attached to Ruth Pawson school, some time in the 90s?
    2. Downtown housing. Glad to see it all getting built but hopefully a new grocery store shows up in the area soon.
    Question: can that happen? I thought I heard something about a deal with Superstore preventing any other grocery stores being put in the downtown area for a certain amount of years, even though they abandoned their location at Dewdney and Albert.
    I used to live in the area and always found that
    Cathedral Safeway was just a little too small, slightly out-of-the-way for visiting by foot, and understocked. Often I would go there for something basic like milk, find they had none, and end up going home to get my car to drive across town.

  3. JF: It sounds like all the major users of the space will be involved in a decommissioning process that will work out relocation options. (The centre doesn’t shut down until the end of June next year.)

    Major users right now are groups like the Coronation Park Community Association, the Bible Way Baptist Church, the Prairie Rock And Gem Society and a bunch of weight reduction groups.

    There is also the North Zone Board Playschool which serves the surrounding neighbourhood. They could be the most challenging to find an appropriate space for. I don’t know if The Gathering Place — which I hear is nearby — could work for that.

    As for a downtown grocery store, the mayor let slip at a press conference for the 12th Ave Plaza that there were discussions taking place around that. What does that mean exactly? Can’t say. But I’ve never heard anything from anyone at city hall to suggest that Superstore has a deal in place to exclude grocery stores from downtown. But that is something worth following up on. Cheers.

  4. I think the Superstore situation was that there could not be a grocery store built in that same location – but I don’t think it extended to the downtown area.

    A compact grocery store downtown (by compact I mean big enough to have some variety, but small enough that it doesn’t engulf an entire block to itself), would be a fantastic asset.

  5. I believe a grocery store can’t be built on the same site where superstore was, which is now called Regina Centre Crossing.

  6. Re: Pasqua Neighbourhood Centre:
    One point Councillor O’Donnell made that I found interesting was that certain private spaces maybe relocation options for some of the community groups. I’m not sure, generally, where I fall on the public/private debate, in this instance I’m not sure such changes are troubling or inevitable. The Prince of Wales library/Al Richie project was raised by Mayor Fiacco as a best-practice example of partnering community services. Going forward, could funding community buildings be less common or dependent on funding by private/public partnerships and higher orders of government?

    Another possible concern, although this is general, is that connections and the intangible synergies different groups make when they share a space could be lost without this facility.

    Re Census:
    I thought this was a great example of Federal costs being downloaded on municipalities. Practical examples like this will be repeated across the country in 2011, so much so it could become a real scandal for the PM. For administration to spend extra time and resources, attempting to create compatible data could be accomplished in big municipalities. What quality of statistics smaller/under-resourced communities will be able to produce/access for their decision makers’ use is uncertain.

    Re: Trees
    I was actually happy Councillor Hutchinson was concerned with the mature trees in the area. Reading David Robert Loblaw’s post made me realize how out of touch that comment actually sounds (I might need to spend less time at city hall). I can understand using Street View in some instances, but Central Park is pretty close to City Hall. I can imagine a route from Ward 2 that wouldn‘t require too much detouring on way to City Hall.

    Finally, the LP’s story on City Council did not include a mention of Hawkstone, the Councillor Clipsham’s census point or the back alley levy. I do not know how many people still get their local news from the LP, but since I’ve been attending public meetings, I have become aware of what is not included in LP coverage.

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