THUNDER BAY -- Colleen Peters is confident city council will see the benefit of keeping a Victoriaville Mall youth centre afloat, at least for a few months.
Administration, however, is recommending council withdraw all funding and equipment from Youth Centres Thunder Bay and turn down the organization’s $25,000 request.
In a report scheduled to go before council on Monday night, administration also provides options that include a $5,000 contribution, money Peters said could help them bridge the gap until they find out in the fall if they were successful in their provincial grant application process.
“I’ve looked at the report and I thought it wasn’t so bad,” Peters said, adding she planned to rally the troops over the weekend and hopefully show up in force at Monday night’s scheduled council meeting.
“There are a lot of things we’ll have to respond to the city about in regards to our business plan, but overall the recommendations that administration and the department of recreation and culture are making are pretty good and we would be ecstatic if council approved either us keeping the equipment until we know if we’ve been successful or not for the cultural funding application we submitted.”
Her confidence is buoyed by the fact that a year ago the centre was facing similar challenges and administration recommended pulling out at that time, only to have council vehemently oppose the plan.
According to administration’s report, a business plan presented to the city at a May 12 meeting was lacking key information and components, including detail on management and operations, a financial plan and a balanced operating budget.
The report also noted discrepancies between the plan and what the group presented to council, 18 months after the pilot project began.
But while administration admits the need for increased youth programming and a long-term youth centre does exist in Thunder Bay, the report suggests the three-day-a-week Youth Centres Thunder Bay was not serving the people they set out to de-marginalize.
When the organization first opened in 2012, its goal was to serve First Nations youth in the city from remote reserves.
“While the need exists to help these youth, during the course of the 18-month pilot, recreation and culture division staff who were directly involved in the pilot operations indicated the majority of youth attending the centre were not in fact students from remote First Nations, but rather youth from Pope John Paul School, sea cadets, the Regional Multicultural Youth Centre, St. Patrick’s High School, Shelter House and students from the Tae Kwan Do school in Victoriaville.
City officials added the location, chosen before the approval of the Youth Centres Plan, does not meet the criteria set out for a long-term youth centre.
Instead the plan identifies the boys and Girls Club and the Evergreen United Neighbourhood as designated satellite program sites, adding it’s premature to comment on Youth Centres Thunder Bay’s possible designation until the criteria is laid out later this year.
Peters said no council support would be devastating, but they would try to soldier on.
“We do have backup plans to hopefully be able to replace some of the items that would be necessary to keep us in operation. But I think it would kind of go against a youth-driven city if they chose to take all the equipment immediately all at once,” Peters said.
At stake are appliances, including a dishwasher, fridge and freezer, furniture and computer equipment, which the city claims is needed at community centres and other facilities.