Arena money controversy
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