Losses continue at Greater Massett Development Corporation

  • Sep. 5, 2007 4:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret–The Greater Massett Development Corp. continues slowly but steadily to lose money, directors said at the organization’s annual general meeting last week (Aug. 29), leading some residents to wonder how much longer it can keep the Massett Recreation Centre open. The corporation, jointly owned by the villages of Masset and Old Massett, lost $231,000 in 2006. This year’s deficit was smaller than last year’s loss of $320,000, but it continues a pattern. GMDC has lost money every year since it was formed in 1997. “My biggest concern, from day one, is what do we do when we get to the end of the funds?” Masset resident Fran Redick asked directors after hearing the financial report. There are no easy answers to that question, directors said. They are well aware that GMDC will eventually consume its multi-million dollar investment fund unless it finds a way to make more money, or spend less. “Everybody realizes we can’t continue to post deficits and continue on,” said Masset director Trevor Jarvis, who chaired the annual general meeting. Another member of the public, Bart deFreitas, asked how much longer the investment fund will last. “So it’s what, 10 years?” he said. Mr. Jarvis responded that he did not want to make a prediction because there’s no way to know for sure. He added that directors are doing everything they can to find new revenue-generating opportunities. “We’re trying to keep an open mind yet remain cautious,” he said. “I don’t think the board has ruled anything out. We’re open to suggestions.” The investment fund stood at just over $5.4-million at the end of 2006. The money was given to GMDC by the federal government a decade ago along with most of the former military buildings in Masset. The interest generated by this investment fund makes up the bulk of GMDC’s revenue, although it makes a bit of additional money renting out its buildings, selling property and equipment, and charging rec centre admissions. Total revenue for 2006 was $758,000, up significantly from revenue of $681,000 the previous year. The change was almost entirely due to improved investment gains. Although GMDC spent less money in 2006 than in 2005 ($989,000 instead of $1-million), expenditures still outstripped revenue. The biggest expenditure is wages and benefits for staff, followed by utilities. The aging buildings, including the rec centre, cost approximately $300,000 last year to heat and light. Manager Jo-Ann Brown said the board has been trying to come up with money-making ideas. Directors have hired an architectural firm to start working on plans for a new rec centre (they received a grant to pay for the feasibility study), in hopes that a new, more efficient building could save money now being spent on heating. They are also planning to sell more property in the near future, and sell what’s left of the commercial kitchen equipment. Directors are also investigating a possible hydro/energy project with the Council of the Haida Nation. Mr. Jarvis said the energy project is new and directors don’t know much about it yet. “Energy is a hot topic on island right now and we’re looking at GMDC as a possible entity to get involved,” he said. “There are people coming to the islands that have ideas and suggestions about what could be done on-island for electrical generation.” Preliminary floor plans for a new rec centre were displayed at the meeting. Ms Brown said the gym is still in relatively good shape, and the architects are looking at keeping that part of the building and constructing a new pool area connected to it. Members of the public were somewhat wary about the new rec centre. Mr. deFreitas asked whether GMDC could afford to operate the new building, and Ms Redick said Skidegate is talking about building a swimming pool, which could reduce the number of users at the Massett centre. Ms Redick said someone from GMDC should talk to the south-end communities and see if they could cooperate on supporting different facilities, for example an ice rink for Skidegate. “Why should we all end up with nothing if we could all work together and end up with two?” she asked. Mr. Jarvis said directors have not decided whether to build a new centre, but are exploring what it might look like, what it might cost, and how much could be saved in annual expenses like heating. Given the age and condition of the swimming pool, he said, the board would be remiss if it didn’t explore these possibilities. Meanwhile, GMDC is losing a couple of staff members. Longtime recreation centre manager Willis Parnell left in August for a new job in Prince Rupert, and Ms Brown, who has been managing the overall activities of the corporation for the past five years, is going to work for the village of Masset as chief financial officer. Some board members changed as well. The late Janet Brown, who represented Masset, was remembered for her spark and energy. Masset director Ed Woode retired from the board after serving three terms. Masset’s directors are now Mr. Jarvis, Shaun Mushynsky, Barry Pages and Marlene Liddle. Old Massett is represented by John Disney, John T. Jones, May Russ and Edward Davis.