After working a decade for the City of Williams Lake, the director of community services is moving on for a new job in Abbotsford. His last day was Friday, July 5.
Geoff Paynton said looking back over his career in the lakecity, the biggest highlight was the new pool and expansion project which took almost eight years from start to finish.
“From when we first decided that’s where we were going to go until what we have now, it was a long process. There was the pre-planning, the consultation with the public, getting the funding and then going back out to the public, finalizing the detailed design and then building it,” Paynton said.
There have been several other changes to the Cariboo Memorial Complex, he added.
“Not only the pool, we have great parking now, the new entrance to the arena side and a lot of things the public doesn’t see in the background like the mechanical systems in behind closed doors that are in great shape. The building, especially on the mechanical side is very sound.”
All the roofing is new too.
“This building is in good shape and a real gem for a community this size,” he added.
One of the biggest challenges through his time at the complex was the 2012 chlorine leak in the old pool.
“It was certainly unexpected and dealing with things like that are never fun. You do your best, nobody got hurt seriously, and we got through it. It was the big impetus for getting the new pool.”
Three times during his tenure, the City activated its Emergency Operations Centre due to wildfires and Paynton was part of planning, and mainly as the information officer.
“The emergency evacuation plan we used in 2017 was actually developed on the back of a napkin in 2010 when Geoff Goodall and myself came up with a plan. Most people probably don’t know how close we were to evacuating in 2010.”
Between 2010 and 2017, the plan was developed more formally, and when the City had to use it, it was ready to go.
“I was actually in the newspaper business a long time ago as an editor and a reporter in Port Hardy,” he said.
“I have always had an interest in communications and a big part of my job here has been writing reports and communicating.”
Paynton remembers standing with former Chief Des Webster in front of the fire hall after the city had evacuated on July 15 and there was an orange glow coming from three sides of the city.
“I had the realization there were fires all around us and asked Des what we would do if the fire came into town. He looked at me and said, ‘there’s a pile of old blankets in the fire hall so we will run down to the lake, get them wet, and go in as deep as you can to keep the blanket over your head.'”
At that moment he asked himself what he had done, he said.
During the evacuation in 2017, between 300 and 500 Canadian Armed Forces personnel were housed at the complex along with big tanks, trucks and ATVs parked outside.
“They occupied both rinks, they used the showers. It was a perfect set up because our ice was out, but the crappy part was we were in the middle of renovations and construction on the pool side and redoing our water tanks so when they first came in we did not have any hot water back there.”
While the soldiers only had cold water, they told Paynton it was better than when they are out in the middle of the bush.
“They had a big satellite out in Boitanio Park and their own mess tent where they served all the meals. They came fully self-sufficient.”
Prior to moving to Williams Lake, Paynton worked in Prince George and was involved with the Canada Games bid there.
“Eight months after I left, Prince George got the bid so they asked me to come back and volunteer on the board of directors, which I did. I went back and forth for board meetings every two weeks for seven years.”
He was involved with the Canada Games before that and has been since then, on mission staff in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and various other places.
“That’s my volunteer life. I also work with Pan Am Games and Pacific Sport — it’s my hobby.”
In Abbotsford he will be the director of parks and recreation and said he and his wife, Ellen, will miss Williams Lake.
“It’s been good to our family,” he said of the time they spent in the lakecity.
“But we will be closer to our boys who are both going to university in Victoria.”