You can't blame a town for doing everything it can to attract and keep doctors, but a plan by the Town of Pasadena is stirring up controversy, as the proposed new clinic space will lead to the displacement of not one, but two other community services.
The town recently bought a building known as The Hub, which had been home since 2018 to the Treehouse Family Resource Centre, a non-profit group that offers programs and support to promote healthy child development and family functioning.
But in order to renovate the building for doctors' offices, the Treehouse would have to share space, which was not considered ideal, or it would have to relocate.
The solution, according to the town, is to reduce the size of the public library located in the town hall to give about half of the floor space to the family resource centre.
"It think it's extremely sad to think that we could be impacted in this way," said Carole Spicer, who is on the board of directors of the Pasadena Public Library. "It feels like we're now pitting user groups against each other, and I think it's going to create a substandard location for both the Family Resource Centre and the Pasadena Public Library."
Darren Gardner, mayor of Pasadena, said the town weighed all the options in deciding how to best accommodate the library, family resource centre, and the new clinic space. He said it was a difficult decision, but one that had to be made to get things moving on the plan to create space for doctors.
"Physician services are something that's a basic service, that a community of 3,600, heading towards 4,000, should expect to have, the residents should expect to have," said Gardner.
In the past, Gardner said doctors have set up in Pasadena but haven't stayed, so to cut the risk of having that happen again, the town wanted to have its own custom-created clinic space to make available.
The town started out by renting space in The Hub for a same-day clinic one day a week but eventually inquired whether the building's owner, the Pentecostal church, would be interested in selling, and that's how the deal came about.
A space of their own
Initially, the town had explored the idea of having the Family Resource Centre continue its programming but in a shared space in The Hub.
But Myrna Moss, executive director of the Treehouse Family Resource Centre, said a dedicated space is essential for programs that run every day of the week and serve so many people.
In the year before the pandemic, Moss said the Pasadena site served 193 families and 276 children. Treehouse is headquartered in Deer Lake and has six sites from Pasadena to Cow Head to White Bay.
Moss said Treehouse is doing its best to move forward in light of the coming changes to its current location.
"Competing with the medical centre is not something we want to challenge to maintain a space, and our board doesn't feel it's our place to do that," said Moss.
Moss said families served by Treehouse were apprehensive when they first found out about the planned changes.
Jayme-Lee Butler has been using the services of Treehouse since her three-year-old son was just a few days old, and she said she was initially angry to learn the town had purchased the building and was displacing the family resource centre.
She's trying now to be optimistic about the future and the potential benefits of having the centre located adjacent to the public library. But she said it'll be hard to match their current facility at The Hub.
"As long as we have a Treehouse, it's a good thing. I'm a little bit wary because I think the space that we have right now is just absolutely phenomenal. You couldn't ask for a better space," said Butler.
No public engagement
Under the proposed arrangement, the public library will be losing half its space in the town hall, and library board secretary Carole Spicer said that's a shame given the number of people who use the library for one reason or another. She said about a third of residents of Pasadena have library cards.
Spicer said that the Pasadena Public Library had an increase in circulation, programming, and computer users during the six-month period from April to September 2022. Spicer said a smaller library will no doubt mean fewer books and less space for in-person programming.
"I mean we have over 13,000 items in our collection. So there's just no way that could fit in 900 square feet," said Spicer.
Spicer said there's also been no public engagement about the decisions being made.
"If indeed the library needs to be renovated, then at least talk to us about what our needs are," said Spicer.
The library has not yet received any formal plans for proposals for changes to the library space, according to Natasha Wells, Western division manager with Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, but preliminary discussion with the town has taken place.
Potential for co-operation
Unlike the library's significant loss of space, the Treehouse at the town hall would be only slightly smaller than the existing space at The Hub, and Myrna Moss said the Treehouse's board of directors feels it will be adequate.
"We understand the importance of that space to the library and we really respect that they are advocating for their needs," said Moss.
Moss said Treehouse had considered some other potential locations in the town, but it was important to find a space that was affordable and close to green space in the town.
Moss said she's hopeful that Treehouse and the library can work together for their mutual benefit in the future.
Gardner said the town values what both Treehouse and the library have to offer.
"The whole idea here is not to take away or detract from services, but rather to add an additional service to town, and that's what this council is working towards," said Gardner.