PAC wants ombudsperson to intervene

The F.W. Howay parent advisory council is calling for the provincial ombudsperson to investigate why it’s taking so long for New Westminster secondary to be replaced, as well as the escalating costs associated with it.

The PAC’s motion also asks the ombudsperson to offer recommendations.

Paul Johansen, Howay PAC representative to the district PAC executive, said the replacement was approved almost 10 years ago, and over the last decade delays and costs on the project have escalated. There is also concern for the health and safety of staff and students “in a building that is deteriorating in need of service and maintenance.”

Golder Associates of Burnaby is conducting research and work on a project that has experienced problems because the school was originally built on a former cemetery and works yard.

“It’s turning into a consultants’ feeding frenzy,” said Johansen. “It’s getting ridiculous …  We want the school built. To us the 15 years they’ve been trying to get this going, and the money they’ve spent [is more than enough]. It’s a waste of B.C. tax dollars with no end in sight.”

Johansen said it’s time the New Westminster school district look at other alternatives. He suggested with the city’s population growing smaller schools on smaller sites would be more appropriate.

“We can’t keep waiting like this. If this was a motel they’d condemn it,” said Johansen. “It’s a hazard.”

Board chair James Janzen declined to comment on the Howay PAC’s decision.

The Office of the Ombudsperson can investigate complaints about the practices and services of public agencies in the province, including school boards and city councils, to determine whether they’ve acted fairly and reasonably.

The motion has been circulated to other PACs in the district for discussion.

The Howay PAC also endorsed the NWSS PAC’s motion of non-confidence in the board of education and senior administration for its $2.8 million deficit. They also requested the provincial auditor-general and the Ministry of Education intervene.

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