Tofino could back out of the West Coast multiplex project in favour of an indoor gym.
During a recent special meeting held, Tofino’s council discussed paying roughly $50,000 for a planning and cost analysis report regarding a recreation centre in town.
Coun. Duncan McMaster said he supported the idea of an indoor gym but was hesitant to put any money towards it without knowing whether or not the West Coast’s multiplex project would move ahead.
He noted the region’s taxpayers voted to cover the operational costs of the proposed multiplex during a 2012 referendum and he doubted Tofino’s taxpayers would be able to afford funding a gym as well.
“We’re basically on the hook for the multiplex, if that goes ahead, and I have concerns as to whether the community could afford both the multiplex and a rec. centre,” McMaster said.
“Until that situation is resolved, as to whether we’re in or out of the multiplex, or whether the community is willing to support both projects, I’m reluctant to commit $50,000 for a study that may not end up not going anywhere if the multiplex goes ahead.”
Mayor Josie Osborne doubted the West Coast Multiplex Society would be in a position to move ahead on the project anytime soon.
“My take on it, and it’s more of a gut feel than anything, is that the district of Tofino is farther along in the conceiving of, and getting somewhere on, an indoor gymnasium than the multiplex is,” she said.
“By virtue of the fact that I sit at the [Alberni-Clayoquot] Regional District with the other representatives who are representing taxpayers who will operate the facility, I feel quite confident saying I don’t think the [multiplex] is going to get off the ground this year.”
McMaster asked if council was ready to step away from the multiplex altogether and Osborne responded that a significant process, infused with a heavy dose of public input, would be needed before the district considers backing out.
McMaster said he supported the multiplex during the referendum but the current project is different from the one locals voted in favour of and Osborne agreed.
Coun. Ray Thorogood also expressed support for the multiplex but said he’d rather have an indoor gym in Tofino.
“I, for one, voted in favour of the multiplex when it came up and I’d still like to see it go ahead but, if preferences are to fall, I’d be more supportive of the indoor gym and seeing that happening before a multiplex if that does go ahead; the gut feeling is that it’s going to, at some point, fail,” he said.
Coun. Cathy Thicke said she could not support both projects and asked how the district could be sure a gym was needed in Tofino.
“I do not want to build another white elephant. I want a facility that this community knows and understand and will support,” she said. “I’m all for an indoor rec. facility, but we need to know before we go into the next level of feasibility that this is what people want and just having anecdotal evidence is not enough for me.”
Tofino’s manager of community sustainability said a public consultation process would precede the $50,000 study and if this process reveals the gym isn’t wanted, then the project could be halted and the money reallocated.
Upon hearing this, council agreed to move ahead and include the $50,000 study in this year’s budget.
After the meeting, McMaster told the Westerly that when the multiplex referendum was held, locals thought they were voting on a skating rink, swimming pool and fitness centre but the project has since been whittled down to a skating rink only.
“I don’t know whether it’s a step back, I think it might be a dose of reality, but it’s certainly not what everybody was voting for at the time,” he said. “It’s like buying a ticket for a lottery for a fantasy home and then, when you win the prize, you actually just get a condominium or something like that.”
He suggested the referendum should be reassessed and Tofitians should be able to choose whether they’d rather have a local gym or a West Coast multiplex.
“If the community wants a multiplex and a rec. facility in Tofino, that’s great, but I somehow think we can’t afford both so the community needs to know how much it’s going to cost them and then they can decide whether they want one or both or none and I’m happy to support them on that,” he said.
Tofino’s lack of an indoor gym was brought to the political forefront almost exactly one year ago, when local Bobby Lax urged council to increase Tofino’s adult recreation opportunities during a March, 2015, presentation.
Tofino used to have access to the Wickaninnish Community School gym but this access was limited after the school announced it would focus gym-use on school and youth activities.
Last week, Thicke questioned the district’s inability to use the school gym.
She suggested School District 70 made a deal with Tofino many years ago that saw Tofino trade eight acres of land around the school in exchange for Tofino’s municipal hall building and, she claimed, the gym was part of the trade’s layout.
“That gym was given in perpetuity for the community residents of Tofino to use, so I just want that clear and known by this council,” she said.
“I haven’t been able to find a document that says that, but I’m going to look for that…In other words when the school tells us that we can or can’t do this, I have a problem with that.”