The facts about the Cobble Hill Pavilion
I am writing in response to Herb Strom’s letter regarding funding for the Cobble Hill Community Pavilion (Mr. Strom calls it the “Evergreen School Pavilion”). As a fellow resident of Cobble Hill I share an interest in keeping a watchful eye on how our governments spend our hard earned dollars. Thank you for your concern and work on our behalf.
The pavilion proposed to be built adjacent to Evergreen Independent School in Cobble Hill Village has been in the works for over five years. At the time of its inception, Evergreen reached out to members of the community, including leadership of the Farmer’s Institute, the area director, and the Area C Parks Commission with a desire to become more integrated into the community. Our sons went to Evergreen school. At that time I was on the board of directors and spearheaded this effort. We came up with a plan to build a pavilion for the community on school property. Five years ago the Cobble Hill Commons wasn’t yet a park and the view of the Evergreen board is that this substantial gift would be a major contribution at a central location in the village. This plan was supported by the area director, the institute, and the parks committee as well as many others in the village.
The Cobble Hill Pavilion will provide a roof for students to play under during school hours. At all other times it is to be available to community members. There is a use agreement in place with the CVRD which dictates this, as well as what happens to and with the structure in perpetuity. The pavilion is designed to accommodate ball hockey, basketball, and tennis. It will also be available for use for a variety of events including weddings, markets, shows, and concerts. The design has an entrance to the pavilion directly from Watson Avenue so neighbours won’t even have to cross school grounds to use the court.
Built in 1914, the Evergreen school building was a public school until a group of parents purchased the retired building in the early 1990s. The grounds have always been open to the public outside of school hours and neighbour kids are frequently seen using the playground equipment, dogs are being exercised, folks are kicking and throwing balls in the field. The school welcomes neighbours to their grounds and have never excluded them. The grounds are fenced because VIHA insists on fences for schools with young kids, not in any effort to exclude neighbours.
Evergreen is a group one funded independent school. The school teaches to the B.C. curriculum and meets stringent financial and educational guidelines set by the province. By meeting these guidelines it qualifies to receive roughly 50 per cent funding per pupil at a rate determined by the province. There are people who think the province “generously funds” independent schools, supplementing them at taxpayers’ expense. In fact, if these kids went to public schools, the province would be responsible for 100 per cent of their education costs and not just 50 per cent. So in reality, independent schools save taxpayers thousands per year per student.
While Mr. Strom is correct that the FISABC restricts funding for capital costs, the restriction pertains to using funds earmarked for academics (the 50 per cent the province provides) for capital costs. It does not restrict other revenue sources from being used for capital costs.
Bottom line is that the pavilion is and always has been a project intended to benefit the entire community. In many ways it is a gift from Evergreen to the community; literally thousands of volunteer hours and donations have been invested to date and many more are coming. Any funding for the pavilion coming through the federal gas tax must be matched and represents a fraction of the total build cost. The Evergreen society will pick up the lion’s share of the expense. They have worked long and hard to create a project that will raise public awareness of our community and make it unique on the island.
Lastly, I am one of the 50 or so people who use the Manley Creek trail and the stairs to the beach every day while walking our dog. Parks, including Manley Creek, are the responsibility of the regional district and are not funded through the federal gas tax. Other municipalities across the country have used federal gas tax monies for projects similar to the pavilion. While I completely sympathize with a desire to spend wisely, I think it’s important for folks to understand where these monies come from and how the responsibility for spending them has evolved. This project is in no way being funded with local property taxes.