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Nanaimo councillors hesitant to support proposed paddling centre

Nanaimo politicians say a proposed boathouse and paddling centre is a good idea, but question if the city can afford a new civic building.

The Nanaimo Boathouse Society approached the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission last week with plans for a $5.1-million boathouse and paddling centre on the Newcastle Channel and requests to support its bid for approval in principle. City officials opted instead to have staff members report on the municipality’s priority projects and whether it can  afford to take on another facility.

According to the boathouse society, the new two-storey building would float on a city water lot, generating more than $500,000 in economic benefits as a community meeting place and centre for water sport enthusiasts to socialize, train and store boats. The society would raise the money needed to build the centre, which would be turned over to the city for ownership and maintenance. Annual operating costs are expected to be $200,000, and the society is proposing a $100,000 management fee for the first year.

City councillors weighing in on the concept say the centre seems to be needed and could lead to economic benefits and tourism, but there are questions and uncertainty about cost.

“No matter if something is a great idea, it still comes down to priorities and there’s a lot of priorities that we have and money only goes so far,” said Coun. Ted Greves, who asks whether the city can afford a new building.

Coun. Diana Johnstone calls it an interesting concept that could derive a lot of economic value, but isn’t sure she wants to see it paid for annually by taxpayers and although Coun. Fred Pattje likes the idea, he says the operating grants are a lot of money and cost will be very much connected with the determination council makes.

“I think that’s where the rubber will hit the road – it’s the money portion,” he said.

Coun. Bill McKay doesn’t want to see the project cost the city any money and never wants to see keys to the facility.

“I don’t want to take on the liability of someone else’s dream,” he said, adding the city also hasn’t budgeted for it. “This thing has come out of the blue. It’s not one of our initiatives.”

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