Saturday, May 25, 2024
May 25, 2024

Editorial: Saving at SIMS

Community groups who have settled in to the Salt Spring Island Multi Space (SIMS) are understandably feeling threatened these days. 

That’s due to recent talk of local government offices being set up there beyond the current PARC office, Capital Regional District (CRD) meeting boardroom and the Salt Spring Island Emergency Program. With the Islands Trust losing its current space in the BC Hydro building this summer, bringing that body into the SIMS fold has also been suggested.

Having the Trust and CRD offices under the same roof has long been on CRD director Gary Holman’s wish list. It seems logical for a community to have its local government offices close to each other, although in this age of easy digital communication, staff of those agencies don’t need to be physically close to each other. And except for someone in the initial steps of a development or building permit application, proximity of the CRD and Islands Trust office is not important. 

Bringing the two bodies together might be a laudable long-term goal, but the Trust’s need for space is almost immediate. It’s not a viable short-term solution. 

One of Holman’s arguments for moving the CRD’s main and building inspection offices from their current downtown spots to SIMS is that it would “save money,” as the CRD would not be paying commercial rents to private Ganges landowners. However, as CRD staff recently pointed out to Salt Spring’s Local Community Commission, changing the current use of SIMS comes with some potentially expensive challenges. 

The promise of “saving money” just doesn’t hold much weight. The CRD pattern is that once funds are freed up, as when the Rainbow Recreation Centre construction debt was paid off ($171,000 was in the 2020 budget for pool debt charges; $26,000 in 2021), another use is always found for those funds. In that case, the “savings” allowed for the setting up of SIMS. 

Then there’s the question of the location itself. Compared to the CRD’s highly accessible McPhillips Avenue main office, SIMS is not easy to get to for anyone with mobility challenges. 

If people are happy with the primary use of SIMS as a community/recreation centre, and if taxpayers won’t really “save” money by using a bigger chunk of it for government offices, is it really worth pursuing at this time?

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