New Brunswick

Users heartbroken as St. Patrick's Family Centre in Moncton decides to close

The St. Patrick's Family Centre in Moncton will close Friday, its board of directors decided Tuesday morning.

Decision affects about 30 children in daycare, swimming pool, variety of progams

St. Patrick’s Family Centre in Moncton closed in mid-July. (Shane Magee/CBC)

St. Patrick's Family Centre in Moncton will close Friday.

The centre, which has a daycare, indoor swimming pool and gym, wasn't making enough money to pay its bills or repair the structure, said Brock Gallant.

Parents and the last two boards of directors of the not-for-profit community centre decided Tuesday morning to close it, Gallant said, after two years trying to "right the ship."

"There were a lot of tears shed this morning," said Gallant, a volunteer assisting the board with media interviews.

The centre on Providence Street near the downtown opened in 1964 after Catholic churches in the area raised the money to build it. It was later sold to the not-for-profit.

'Breaks my heart'

Susan MacDonald taught spin classes for about a dozen years at the centre. She came to the centre starting in 1977 as a seven-year-old for swimming lessons and daycare. Her daughter also went to daycare at the centre.

"It's just really sad to see the doors closing," she said after finishing her noon spin class, wiping away tears.

She said she'll miss coming to the centre.

"It just breaks my heart," she said.

Susan Macdonald, a spin class instructor at St. Patrick's Family Centre, wipes tears away Tuesday afternoon after learning the centre will close Friday. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Gallant said a volunteer group had been planning a fundraising campaign to make improvements at the centre. 

"Through our investigations, every time we would scratch a layer, we would find more trouble," Gallant said.

"Trouble that had begun long before this board came to power. What we found is a not-for-profit organization that does not have the cash flow needed to maintain its operation."

Revenue came from the centre's daycare, with about 30 children, membership fees and swimming lessons.

Gallant said the board members and volunteers don't have the skills to figure out what went wrong.

"Something's not right and we just don't know what it is," Gallant said.

He said a forensic audit would be required to understand when, over the last 20 years, things went wrong, although such an audit is not underway.

"We're not blaming anybody," he said.

Gallant said the organization has about $40,000 in debt, with a property valued at more than $1 million, he said. The facility has long been in need of costly work, including repairs to the leaky roof, new electrical and heating and ventilation systems.

An exit committee will be established to ensure all money paid to the centre for services not yet delivered will be returned. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

About 25 staff, including lifeguards, will be affected by the closure, Gallant said. 

The decision also affects the centre's daycare and will mean cancelling fall swimming lessons.

The centre is starting to liquidate its assets to return money collected from members and parents, Gallant said.

A letter handed out to members Tuesday states an exit committee will be established to ensure all money paid to the centre for services not yet delivered will be returned.

Clarence Desmond leaves St. Patrick's Family Centre on Tuesday. He's worked out at the centre's gym for 15 years and says he hopes it doesn't close. (Shane Magee/CBC)

'Bad move'

Clarence Desmond has gone to the centre for about 15 years and uses the gym to work out daily.

The 81-year-old was just learning about the decision to close as he left the centre Tuesday.

"That would be a bad move on their part," he said. "Where else can we go? I hope they keep this centre open for a long time."

He said he paid $240 a year for his membership. He said he'll need to find a new place to work out.

"I prefer here. Nobody bothers you, you do your own thing, do your own business, pay your dues and that's it," Desmond said.

The closure of the pool means one less swimming pool near downtown. The outdoor East End Pool closed in 2013. The city is planning to build a replacement facility to open next summer if it can find $700,000 in additional funding. 

Moncton council set aside money in this year's budget to ensure Moncton residents could access the pools at St. Patrick's Family Centre, the YMCA and the CEPS at the University of Moncton. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

now