Drug use, theft, squatting and confrontations with staff are on the rise at the Nelson and District Community Complex.
The recreation centre’s staff suspended 10 patrons during a two-week period in January according to Joe Chirico, general manager of community services for the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
Chirico says there have always been incidents at the NDCC, but the frequency of misconduct is on the rise.
“We suspend people for poor behaviour,” he told the Star. “When we suspend someone we take that very seriously because we’re taking away a public privilege.”
Chirico’s report to the Recreation Commission on Jan. 28 cited several instances of patrons locking themselves in showers or change rooms, drug paraphernalia found in washrooms, people setting up sleeping bags and food in the arena concourse washrooms, stolen money and washroom products, users not paying to access the facilities and verbal abuse of staff.
The regularity of the incidents, Chirico said, is having an impact on staff as well as people who use the NDCC.
“We do know we’ve had patrons say to us they’re not feeling as safe as they used to be in the facility,” he said. “It’s definitely increased staff stress. Oftentimes if you confront people you’ve suspended from the community they’re belligerent, they can be abusive, not necessarily physically but verbally, and that takes its toll.
“I know that’s impacted community members who have stepped in on occasion when those things are happening, whether it be at the front desk or another part of the facility, and just doesn’t make the facility a family-positive, public place to come to.”
In response, Chirico said staff have installed used-needle containers throughout the NDCC, locked several doors that used to remain open throughout the day, and are trying to funnel visitors past the front desk. They’re also considering hiring security personnel.
The challenge, Chirico said, is the centre is a public facility. People have a right to be there even if they aren’t paying — especially when it is cold outside — and the NDCC suffers from not having a larger entrance for the public to relax in.
“We know we need to be somehow a part of the positive solution for the community, but we’re still trying to figure out how we fit into that …,” he said.
“We want to be empathetic but we also want to make sure the facility is safe for patrons and staff.”