REPORTING · 14th April 2011
Madelyn Robinson took the stand at the Kitimat City Council Meeting on Monday, April 4th to present the Council with the plans for the Courts at Mount Elizabeth Secondary School. She explained what the Parent Advisory Council was.
“Our vision is to refurbish the existing courts at MESS. Turn them into a Road Hockey Court, two basket ball courts and one Tennis Court,” explained Robinson. “The one Tennis Court can be used for Road Hockey as well so we’ll have two road hockey courts for Community and School use.
She showed the Council what the courts looked like before they went in to clean up and the current state of the courts and the plans for the courts. She added they were funded by the School Community Connections Grant, the former Tennis Club and Enbridge for a total amount of $27,036 which is for phase one.
Phase one is the parameter drainage, the catch basin, the crack sealing, post removal patching and drilling holes. She stated work will commence in the spring.
Phase two is the paving of the court. She explained if the Council approves the funding, they will apply for matched funding so they have the $65,000 to go ahead with this phase. The third phase is the removing and repairing the fencing and adding benches and signs.
She has applied for other grants around the community. She explained by repairing these existing facilities they would be contributing to recreation for the students and the community, benefitting the community and the students. With the shift from Whitesail to Roy Wilcox coming this fall, Nechako School the high school will grow in size. For the community, it will add a new community recreation space.
“Our students are our future adults and our voters.. Investing in recreational facilities have positive long term effects on individuals not to mention our health care system and attract families to Kitimat,” said Robinson.
She thanked Council for the opportunity to present and read off letters from the community supporting the tennis courts. Gary Mouland stepped up to read a letter of support. He stated the upgraded courts would help the school should the plans for expansion increase.
Councillor Goffinet wanted to know what the total cost is, Robinson replied $120,000. Goffinet confirmed they were asking the district for $36,000. Goffinet also confirmed the School District would be looking after the courts and not the District.
Councillor Randy Halyk raised this concern as well. “I understand the property is owned by the School District and they have invested money so far?” asked Halyk.
Robinson explained the School District will be investing long term maintenance of the court, insurance costs and installation costs.
Halyk referred to Tennis as a high end sport, elitist. He wanted to know if the goal was also to produce Tennis players to go out and win events. Robinson said it was recreation and what happens next, they do not know.
Halyk also asked if there were other courts in town. Robinson replied there were tennis courts at Nechako. She expected these courts to be well used by the increasing students at the school. She added the courts at the high school will benefit the Whitesail neighbourhood as well as the middle school.
Barry Pankhurst, Chair of the School Board got up to say a few words. “This is not a Tennis Court, fixing up a Tennis Court. This is an opportunity for kids to play ball hockey, our teachers to be able to teach them in that area. I don’t want any of the Council Members or yourself Mayor, to think this is an elitest Tennis Court for Elitest People, this is for students to be able to use that facilty,” said Pankhurst.
He also pointed out the PAK has received $19,000 from the School District and can apply for a third round of funding. The school board is doing what they can to get the Tennis Courts open. He also stated it is a secure area for the kids to play in.
Halyk spawned another concern: “There was a School Board, this facility has been there and these facilities have been run down over time. Is there a reason why the school board did not maintain it?”
Pankhurst replied: “Yes. Dollars. The priority was classroom facilities, running the classroom, education in the classroom.. The government gives us 1.5 million dollars to do fix up for 30 schools in Coast Mountain. It is not very much money if you look at a roof or heating and windows and that. Yes, they were run down because the priority was the classroom. For the last 10 years, Mount Elizabeth has been a priority for our School District but we’re not getting the cooperation with our government for 8-10 million dollars to fix that school up. That’s why we were unable to maintain it.”
Pankhurst stated he appreciates Council investing in the Animal Shelter and the Retirement Community but the kids need to be invested in as well. These are facilities the youth could use without being charged for using them. They could use them rather than going around the streets causing problems.
This lead to another question from Halyk: “We’re told maintenance would be covered by the school board yet you’re saying we don’t have the money for maintenance.”
Pankhurst denied saying there was no money for maintenance and what he had said earlier was an explaination as to why the courts had not been maintained. Robinson has been given the assurance that money would be provided by the school board.
School board member Raymond Raj stepped up to speak on this as well. “This is not about the MESS PAK. This is about investing in the community,” said Raj. “There was a time when we had a Kitimat School Board which was the richest in the province. We had all kinds of money. Then what was done? We were lumped with Terrace, Thornhill, Hazelton, Kitwanga and Stewart. So now we have School District 82, five communities and whatever we do in one community, we have to do it for all the communities..”
He said if they spend $25,000 in Kitimat, they have to spend $100,000 everywhere else. He pointed out the School District cannot raise taxes to pay for costs. He said they will maintain the court. He pointed out the Council is only supposed to look after Kitimat, the school board has to look after all the communities.
Halyk expressed he had been misunderstood. He was concerned that the school board did not have the money or the funds and if the Council invested in the park and it was not maintained, they were throwing money out the window. He wanted to ensure the school board had the money.
Raj explained the School District will support any project done by the Parent Advisory Councils so long as the PAC’s provide the money. He said the MESS PAC was the most community minded. They were trying to invest in the community.
Later in the meeting, Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to grant the $36,500 to the project. Halyk reminded the Council they chose not to invest during the budget after a long discussion. He expressed Council had already made a significant investment in recreation.
Councillor Rob Goffinet added the District facilties are top notch and this facilty will be as well. Council will have a 1/3 of a share in this land and it will be available to everyone in the community. He added when he was teaching at Nechako, the Tennis Courts were being used.
Halyk said he wanted to see more facilities but he wanted to see in writing from the school board it would be maintained. Councillor Corinne Scott said if she was the chair of the school board, she would be offended if her word was not good enough and it had to be put in writing. Feldhoff pointed to a letter in the Council Package from John Garossino, the Director of Facility Services, who said it would be maintained.
Feldhoff said it is not an elitest sport nor was the PAC a special interest group. He said if they could find the money for a new fire truck, they could find the money for this project. Monaghan called the question. It passed with Halyk opposed.
The MESS PAC Prepares to present.