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Building a legacy

"I believe that the community centre is a necessity and not a luxury," Shari Ulrich, chair of the Bowen Community Centre Action Committee (BCCAC) said.

"I believe that the community centre is a necessity and not a luxury," Shari Ulrich, chair of the Bowen Community Centre Action Committee (BCCAC) said. "It requires courage to shepherd that project to completion but the rewards will be felt by generations." The committee has worked hard to map out a way towards building a facility that is right for Bowen and that is sustainable but when it presented its final report to council on February 27, much of the focus was on the numbers.

"This is the single largest capital expenditure. It is extremely significant in the life of our municipality," BCCAC's consulting project manager Florrie Levine said. "Creating a facility that meets the needs of the community will have a long term impact."

"The challenge was to create feasible financial plan with a modest facility," Levine said. "Since a larger facility was recommended for financial sustainability, we looked at three options and came up with a hybrid model." She added that in June 2011, the committee was asked to include at a municipal hall component.

Levine said that the committee recommends option B, the hybrid model, what she calls the mama bear model, with the addition of the municipal hall. Levine said that this option consolidates current arts, recreation and municipal programs and staff into the facility for enhanced collaboration, shared spaces and operating efficiencies. It also has three large multi-use programmable spaces that can generate rental revenue to offset the facility's operating costs.

Levine also recommended exploring further opportunities to share the site. "We should be looking for partners," she said.

"The library has asked to be included. They are in the process of doing a space needs assessment. They would add more vibrancy to the project." The committee also suggests a commercial kitchen as an additional element since the planned multi-use concession area may not meet the long-term needs of the community centre.

BCCAC's municipal staff liaison Christine Walker said that an events calendar for the great hall was developed with the input from user groups. She said, "We approached them and asked, 'How would you use the facility and when would you use the facility?' With events like weddings and memorials, we went with a lower number because we didn't know. We met with stakeholder and came up with three different rates: non-profit, private and commercial as well as rates for residents and non-residents."

Levine said, "For example, Cates Hill Chapel rents for $200 and seats 150 people. This facility would rent to a non-profit for $40 per hour. For the five hours of usual production time, that would be $200 and doesn't represent an increase of expense. But it seats more people and has a proper lighting and sound system. We've made an effort to make it affordable and not onerous for non-profits to create events."

When Levine looked at the numbers for operating the facility, she included the rent that was currently paid by the municipality and BIAC. But the bottom line came up as a negative number. Levine realizes that for a realistic operating budget, a shortfall is not acceptable. Measures to eliminate the deficit that stands at $64,500 annually for option B have been identified by the committee. They include decreasing operating costs, cost-sharing and increasing the BIAC endowment fund.

And what would it cost to build the facility? The price tag for the option B community centre comes to $11,750,000. Levine said that the fundraising campaign would build on existing funds and target private sources, foundations and government. Levine said, "We were looking at a model where one third would be raised locally." The committee has identified local funding as the municipal and arts council reserves ($769,000) and the current municipal rent converted to mortgage ($1,700,000). After taking these contributions into account, Bowen Island would be left with just over $1.5 million.

The committee recommends a three-year implementation schedule that includes 2012 for site planning, building design and fundraising development. The year 2013 is earmarked for holding a referendum, design development and fundraising, and 2014 could see construction drawings, contract negotiation and construction. Levine said, "It is a very challenging schedule and any deviation would make it difficult to get to construction in 2014."

Councillor Wolfgang Duntz said we all ran on a platform to make it a reality, "Are we ready to embark on fundraising or should we explore whether we are ready? The municipality faces times of financial hardship. The financial advisory committee will help us come to terms with that." Duntz said that, in order to proceed [with the community centre project], council needs to be sure that it will not be a failure. He added, "Even if it is delayed past our term, I would call that a failure and see it as a major disappointment. We need to explore the readiness and we need the largest degree of public buy-in." Duntz also said that he suggests to check [community] readiness rather than investing too much in a conceptual plan. He added that Bowen has not seen a project of this scope.

Mayor Jack Adelaar asked Duntz to elaborate on the connection between the surplus lands and the community centre. Duntz said, "Ideally I would like to see the project being viable even without the success of fundraising. I see us focusing, but not being dependent, on the surplus lands as a fall back option. There is a significant amount of money that can be freed up by dealing with the surplus land and without it affordable housing and community groups will suffer."