The City of Nanaimo’s committee of the whole meetings will move back to Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (NEWS BULLETIN file)

Committee of the whole meetings will move back to conference centre

City of Nanaimo’s COW meetings are currently held at the service and resource centre

The City of Nanaimo’s committee of the whole meetings will be held in a bigger venue once again.

Nanaimo councillors voted 6-3 Monday in favour of relocating committee of the whole meetings from the service and resource centre to the Vancouver Island Conference Centre’s Shaw Auditorium.

The move comes less than a year after councillors voted to move the meetings to the service and resource centre’s smaller boardroom in an effort to save money. A staff report indicates that it costs an average of $2,189 to hold a single meeting at the Shaw Auditorium versus the SARC building, which costs $338 per meeting.

Coun. Diane Brennan, who made the motion, said the SARC building is inadequate for committee of the whole meetings and provides a poor environment for members of the public, citing viewing and audio issues.

“It’s a difficult meeting to observe in the gallery of the SARC boardroom. The chairs are at the back, the circle is at the front and people who are in the back can’t hear who is speaking, sometimes they don’t even know who is speaking because they can’t see the faces of the people who are talking,” she said.

Coun. Jim Kipp called the SARC building poorly designed but said, “I don’t want to spend the extra money coming [to the VICC]. This place doesn’t impress me much.”

Coun. Bill Bestwick said taxpayers paid for the conference centre and it should be used. However, he said he struggled with cost of holding meetings at the conference centre.

“We are our own best customer here at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre,” he said. “Fundamentally, I have a challenge with the amount of money we pay ourselves to be here.”

Coun. Ian Thorpe said while he voted to move COW meetings to the SARC building back in 2016, he felt the building hasn’t been effective.

“The sound has not been ideal, the viewing lines are not good,” he said. “Well, we’ve heard the arguments tonight. Maybe we will get there in terms of it being a working committee that would be more suited to that venue in future; I think for now it is not.”

Coun. Jerry Hong said he believes the SARC building is better than it was when they first began holding COW meetings there and any exisiting issues with the boardroom can be worked out. Hong said he didn’t want to give up on the SARC building because the city has spent $57,000 to improve SARC’s boardroom and moving back to VICC would be a waste of money.

“It’s better than when we started. Should we discount spending $57,000 right now and come back here? I don’t think so. I am not willing to waste $57,000 at this point. I would like to figure out if we can accommodate everybody to make it work,” he said.

The decision only includes committee of the whole meetings and not other meetings. No time frame has been provided for when the first COW meeting will be held at VICC. Councillors Hong, Kipp and Yoachim voted against the motion.

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