Bright Beginnings Family Centre has acquired the former Entrepreneurial Centre for $1 after the approval of a sale agreement at the Aug. 19 Swift Current City Council meeting.
The non-profit community organization will be providing space to a variety of agencies in order to deliver child-focused and parent programs, changing the use of the facility which had operated as he South West Centre for Entrepreneurial Development dating back to 1996. The Entrepreneurial Centre's Board of Directors formally dissolved effective July 31, turning possession of the facility back to the City. As ownership of the building was expected to revert back to the City, administration had been considering options for the future use of the facility.
"It's really great to have people together, under one roof. It's easy partnering. It saves you on time. It saves you on resources. And when you're saving time and resources that enables you to invest those into other areas, so we can add additional programming and whatnot to the services that are being provided already," explained Jenise Tisdale, one of the individuals helping to spearhead the Bright Beginnings initiative.
Already serving as the home of some family-based organizations, the building will house a diverse array of programs including the Family Resource Centre, Cre-8-tive Minds Early Learning and Childcare, Parent Monitoring Programs of Saskatchewan, Parent Support Network, Early Childhood Intervention Program, Family Advocacy Program, Southwest Literacy Committee, Crisis Services (Men's and Children Outreach), plus Southwest Homes. The facility will also house some private businesses that compliment the Bright Beginnings mandate.
Louise Bacque, who was one of the individuals instrumental in driving the idea forward, said the centre boasts a number of benefits for families.
"It's also easy for the parents to just be at one spot, and be able to meet everyone," she explained.
Bacque pointed out that if one program needs to connect a family with another agency or service, they can simply walk them down the hallway and introduce them to the right person without having to make appointments on different days and at different locations. This increased partnering is expected to lead to additional programs and services.
Members of Swift Current City Council had spent a lot of time discussing the request, meeting with the Bright Beginnings proponents during a July 22 En Camera session plus discussing the request at other times.
The building will officially change hands effective Sept. 1, with the non-profit group taking possession of the building for $1. One condition to the property transfer will be the City of Swift Current completing a roof repair at the building, with Bright Beginnings reimbursing that payment total over a 10-year period.
"Administration has reviewed their proposal and believes that this is an ideal use for this facility, as it will provide for so many groups that will serve the needs of the community," a report prepared for council notes. "We believe that this is the best possible use for the facility, as it will provide a location for a multitude of organizations that provide tremendous programs, learning environment, support, and education for the betterment of our city and community as a whole."
Councillor Gord Budd felt that the facility is ideally suited for what Bright Beginnings has planned for it.
"I think, in terms of being a taxpayer of Swift Current, the fact that we're turning the building over to them, yes the building does have a certain value to it, and some might argue that we're giving something away for a dollar. But on the other hand we're also decreasing our liability in terms of maintaining that building and so on. And we're giving it to a group that is going to get, I think, the most use out of it."
Councillor Denis Perrault was the lone dissenting vote in a motion passing by a five to one count. He felt that the City needs clearer policies when dealing with city-owned properties.
"Although I support the hard work and the efforts that the Bright Beginnings group, and all the umbrella organizations continue to do for our city, I cannot support this motion," Perrault said during debate on the report.
"This is a City asset and it currently holds some commercial value, although it could be debated what that is. We have not provided other community members, organizations or businesses the opportunity to tender this decision. Although it does appear to be a good use of the building, it is the only option that has been provided to this council."
Perrault added he feels there should be a clear city policy in this area.
"Currently there's not a policy in place for the disposition of a City asset of this magnitude, and in my opinion there should be one, so that we can remain transparent whenever a decision like this comes forward," Perrault said.
Councillor Ryan Plewis spoke in favour of the transfer to Bright Beginnings, noting the City will no longer be responsible for building maintenance following the significant repairs the building has undergone.
"One bonus for me is we're actually moving this asset into the hands of a private entity here, who is going to be basically continuing on doing what's already been happening in that particular area," Plewis added.
Mayor Jerrod Schafer also felt their future risks associated with the building were eliminated by transferring ownership to a group who are now in charge of annual maintenance and future upkeep costs.
Schafer noted that the Bright Beginnings mandate aligns nicely with the City of Swift Current's initiatives towards being a safe and caring community.
"I think continuing to acknowledge investments in our youth and in families in the City of Swift Current is an important role for this council to have," he told council.
"I think it's going to be a good service that's going to contribute to the overall health of the community of Swift Current, and I think that's a great investment for this council to make."
Swift Current's facility is being modeled after the Better Beginnings Better Futures community research project which began in Ontario two decades ago.
Bright Beginnings is now the place to go for families looking for support or programming. There will be large group programming space and quieter spaces for one-on-one discussions, while the location will also boast an indoor family play area.
Cre-8-tive Minds ELCC will be opening on Sept. 3. They will be open extended hours to provide daycare to families that schedule around shift work or evening work. Additional details on this childcare option can contact Bacque at 306-773-6160.
Individuals or groups that would like to learn more about Bright Beginnings Family Centre, rental space, or would like to become a board member, contact Jenise Tisdale at 306-741-0331.
The first Bright Beginnings board meeting will be at Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. in the rotunda of the Bright Beginning Family Centre at 885 6th Ave. N.E.