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Wakefield community centre vote on building’s future planned for June 20 

June 3rd,2024 | News

Board members at the Wakefield community centre announced on May 22 that the centre’s 14-year mortgage has been fully repaid. However, rising costs are set to threaten the centre’s future finances.

The Wakefield community centre may have paid off its mortgage, but board members are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial deficits in the coming years. 

In a recent Centre Wakefield La Pêche board meeting on May 22, the board revealed that the centre had finally paid off its 14-year mortgage, freeing up around $800,000 of cash flow. But when looking ahead at future years, the centre is projecting deficits near $200,000 each year. 

“It’s really exciting for us, that’s something that has been over our heads for a while,” said board president Julie Coté about paying off the mortgage. “[But] it doesn’t take away the costs for the building, so we do continue to incur costs.”

Despite this year’s mortgage payoff, the financial report shared at the last information session on May 22 revealed that the centre’s expenses are projected to increase significantly in coming years, leading to a deficit of around $200,000 per year by 2027, if the centre stays on its current path. 

According to the board’s treasurer Lynn Forrest, building costs are one of the main reasons for the future deficit. She stated that the centre will continue to physically deteriorate in several ways, leading to mandatory and costly repairs in the next few years. 

“We have an engineering report on the building that says we need to spend about $600K [on maintenance and repairs],” said Forrest. 

On the balance sheet of this year’s financial report, she added that the board noted a more “conservative” estimate, lowering this projected cost to around $60,000 in 2025, $80,000 in 2026 and $100,000 in 2027. 

“We’re holding our own now, but if something big came along, we wouldn’t be able to pay for it,” she said.

The board’s financial trouble is mainly due to staffing issues, explained Forrest. She said that the board is struggling to maintain “sustainable staffing” due to the cost of workers’ wages. In the financial report, the board noted that it expects to spend roughly  $300,000 per year in staffing in 2025, 2026 and 2027. 

Vote coming for municipal takeover

The Wakefield community centre currently runs under a cooperative system. Co-op members collectively own the building and can exercise the right to vote on decisions about the centre proposed by the board. 

The Centre Wakefield La Pêche board is urging co-op members to show up to a May 30 information session, where the board will discuss the centre’s future. There is a special meeting set for June 20, where the co-op will vote on whether or not the municpality will take over the building. According to the draft agreement presented last summer, the municipality would essentially become the landlord of the building and would undertake all maintenance and repair costs. 

The co-op would still manage programming, rentals and make other community decisions. It would be similar to the arrangement that artists at Place des Artistes Farrellton have entered into with the municipality: La Pêche is the landlord of the former Catholic school, which PAF took over in 2016 from the school board, while the artists run the art centre as they see fit. 

Regarding the board’s position, Forrest said that the board is more or less neutral as to whether the vote passes in favour of the municipal takeover or not. 

On the bright side, both Forrest and Coté expressed that the centre has been more active than ever this year. 

“The centre is buzzing, I’ve never seen it like this,” said Forrest. She and Coté stated that the centre’s programming has been getting better, with an increasing number of activities taking place in the building and room rentals for events going up as well. 

Coté added that co-op volunteers are at the Wakefield Market every week for the first half of the morning if residents want more information on how to become a member or how the board operates. 

In previous years, the board had been central to decision-making processes, explained Coté. 

“In the past, there hasn’t been a lot of communication between the board and the [co-op] members,” she said. 

She added that now the board is looking to take on more of an advisory role to let co-op members become more involved in voting and decision making. 

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