Victoria's bridge chief to probe West Shore recreation spending

The man who led the Johnson Street Bridge project for the City of Victoria is turning his attention to the West Shore.

Jonathan Huggett, an engineer by training, has been hired as a consultant by West Shore Parks and Recreation, which serves Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Highlands and View Royal. His task is to ensure that the organization maintains “financial sustainability” for facilities and programs.

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As Huggett begins his six- to eight-month assignment, he is still looking at finishing touches on the $105-million bridge, which opened to traffic on March 31. He was initially hired by Victoria in 2014 to assess risks associated with the project.

Huggett said there are some minor things to attend to with the bridge, “but there’s nothing major on it.”

He said his new part-time position stems from past duties with West Shore Parks and Recreation.

“I did the initial report that led to the dismissal of the board of directors there and replaced them with the five [chief administrative officers] of the municipalities that are shareholders, and now we’re working for a whole strategy.”

Huggett said he will look at various issues throughout the parks and recreation operation.

“My job is to go in there and say: ‘Are the funds that are being expended in there being well-used?’ Recreation is not a for-profit business. The reason we do public recreation is because communities want it, it’s a social service. Swimming pools lose a lot of money. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them.”

The West Shore recreation package includes a pool, fitness centre, par-three golf course, curling rink, playing fields, tennis courts and sand-volleyball courts.

One of the prime facilities is The Q Centre arena, which opened in 2004. It is home to the B.C. Hockey League Victoria Grizzlies and the Western Lacrosse Association Victoria Shamrocks. Huggett is charged with looking at ways to bring a bigger variety of events to the site.

Huggett has experience with local arenas, having negotiated the deal for the City of Victoria with Graham Lee for the Save-on Foods Memorial Centre in 2002. He was done similar work for arenas in Penticton, Dawson Creek, Abbotsford and Oshawa, Ont.

“I get pulled in to shine a light in places that people maybe don’t want illuminated,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a very difficult job but that’s basically what I do.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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