Arena money con­tro­versy

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Made­line Mul­hol­land Stanstead

Stanstead’smu­nic­i­pal coun­cil meet­ing lost its ve­neer of ci­vil­ity Mon­day evening af­ter coun­cil was called to task by cit­i­zens, and one of their own, for hav­ing qui­etly pushed through a res­o­lu­tion to do­nate $25,000 of tax­payer’s money to the Pat Burns Arena over the next five years. It ap­pears many took ex­cep­tion to the fact it was done with­out ad­vance no­tice or con­sul­ta­tion with the pub­lic.

The res­o­lu­tion was passed, although coun­cil­lor Wayne Stratton solemnly stated his dis­agree­ment with the do­na­tion. He read a state­ment ex­plain­ing his de­ci­sion. ‘From day one we at coun­cil said that cit­i­zens from Stanstead won’t pay one cent of taxes for the new arena, but the $25,000 comes out of the tax­pay­ers’ pock­ets. …’ No sooner were the words from his mouth when he came un­der fire from fel­low coun­cil­lors Michele Richard, Chris Good­sell and Guy Ouil­let, who crit­i­cized his choice to ac­cept the bud­get then re­ject the do­na­tion. ‘Your de­ci­sion doesn’t make any sense.’ stated Richard. Stratton elab­o­rated that he be­lieved the lack of trans­parency on be­half of coun­cil in this de­ci­sion was eth­i­cally wrong, re­fer­ring to a coun­cil­lors’ obli­ga­tion to the pub­lic. He stated tax­pay­ers have the in­di­vid­ual right to choose whether to do­nate fur­ther to the Arena and coun­cil had no busi­ness do­nat­ing $25,000 of their tax dol­lars to the Arena with­out con­sul­ta­tion, or the pub­lic’s prior con­sent. He re­it­er­ated it was in vi­o­la­tion of the prom­ise coun­cil made to the pub­lic re­gard­ing the use of their tax money for the Arena.

Mr. Dave Dubois of Bor­der Hockey ad­dressed him­self to the coun­cil and, cit­ing a 20% drop in Bor­der Hockey reg­is­tra­tion, be­seeched them to be ac­count­able to all of the town’s chil­dren, most specif­i­cally those who are ea­ger to join sports but lack the fi­nan­cial re­sources to do so. He asked that money be ear­marked, and spe­cific ef­forts made, to en­sure ev­ery child had ac­cess to sports, and more specif­i­cally hockey, if they chose. He also asked why some of this money was not be­ing chan­nelled di­rectly into town youth ini­tia­tives, such as mi­nor hockey as­so­ci­a­tions, a youth cen­ter and ac­tiv­i­ties. Michelle Richard claimed the SCRC had failed in at­tract­ing youth to their pro­grams, although none were free, and Guy Ouil­let coun­tered with a brief speech on how for­tu­nate Stanstead was to have the arena and loosely ref­er­enced the many ben­e­fits it pro­vided as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the $25,000 do­na­tion. Mr. Dubois’ ques­tions were not an­swered di­rectly.

In re­cent months the town has spo­ken of their in­ten­tion to adopt ini­tia­tives aimed at main­tain­ing our de­te­ri­o­rat­ing youth pop­u­la­tion, re­viv­ing our fail­ing Cul­tural and Re­cre­ation Cen­ter and de­vel­op­ing the town eco­nom­i­cally through hir­ing a de­vel­op­ment agent. I asked coun­cil if there was a co­he­sive plan for the goals of these ini­tia­tives to be tied into the ex­pen­di­ture of the $25,000 and if there were any pa­ram­e­ters at all put on the ex­pen­di­ture of this money that would al­low the spe­cific needs of tar­get groups to

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