The Portage Citizen — If all goes well, the social fabric of Portage la Prairie will become tighter knit should the Herman Prior Activity Centre be successful in acquiring nearly $750,000 in federal and local grants.
The grants will allow the Herman Prior Activity Centre board to renovate its space to update and modernize what it can offer community groups and individuals.
About two years ago Portage’s “senior” centre began re-imagining itself from solely being a senior’s centre and became the Herman Prior Activity Centre.
“We have to keep with the times,” Joan Hewson, chair of the Herman Prior Activity Centre said following the filing of the grant application forms. “We will always be a centre where seniors can come to take part in any number of activities, but we are hoping the Herman Prior can become so much more. It’s quite exciting,” Hewson said. “We made our intentions public at the annual general meeting. We will enhance what the Herman Prior Activity Centre can offer to the community.”
Understandably some of the seniors who are regulars at the Herman Prior have reservations about the proposed changes. None of it will happen unless the centre is awarded the generous grants, but it qualifies on all fronts. The board emphasizes “our seniors will not lose a thing. In fact, we will be working in our planning to improve, enhance and expand what we offer to our seniors,” the board chair said.
The Herman Prior has two halls. The larger hall is popular for weddings, funerals, socials and other large get-togethers. It is also more frequently used than the smaller Crocus Room.
The grant money would allow the Herman Prior Activity Centre board to renovate to build office space to house complimentary services.
The most ambitious plan on the drawing board is to construct a state-of-the-art multimedia meeting room to fill a developing niche here.
The City of Portage la Prairie, the Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie and the Portage la Prairie School Division are looking for solutions to comply with The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) that became law Dec. 5, 2013.
The compliance deadlines for private, small municipalities and non-profit organizations was Nov. 1, 2018. Local government — the city and the school division are housed in historical, hard to renovate buildings — all have stairs impeding accessibility to public meetings. Each is seeking solutions to comply with AMA, but have not to date. The financial prospects to renovate or move are daunting.
It is the Herman Prior Activity Centre board’s hope the completely accessible centre would become home to public meetings for all three levels of local government.
The meeting room would offer complete digital services including live streaming, audio and video recording and a public gallery.
“We know now the centre as it was originally conceived has to change with the times. Community expectations are such it is necessary to make the changes,” Hewson said. “It can’t stay the same. The whole community will benefit from this change if we do get the grants.”
Change is also proving to be the Mother of Invention for the Herman Prior Activity Centre board. The city has served notice it is expecting the centre to begin paying rent at the city-owned building. It has given the board five years to find a financial model that will make that possible.
“A better-used centre will mean we will be able to meet our future financial costs,” Hewson said.