‘It’s a boon­dog­gle’

Wind­sor coun­cil ig­nores fi­nal plea to re­con­sider Long Pond arena lo­ca­tion

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY COLIN CHISHOLM HANTSJOURNAL.CA HOS­PICE colin.chisholm@hantsjournal.ca

Wind­sor coun­cil has ap­proved mov­ing for­ward with Long Pond as the pre­ferred site for a fu­ture arena de­spite a fi­nal plea to re­con­sider from Coun. Jim Ivey.

Deputy Mayor Lau­rie Mur­ley made the mo­tion to move for­ward with the Long Pond site dur­ing a spe­cial coun­cil ses­sion Feb. 20. The mo­tion, sec­onded by Coun. John Bre­gante, in­cluded a di­rec­tion for staff to be­gin look­ing into mod­i­fy­ing Hal­ibur­ton House and the re­birth of the Stan­nus Rink to cre­ate a her­itage com­po­nent.

But Ivey says he still has ma­jor con­cerns about the project and how it could im­pact tax­pay­ers.

“There are some things that fun­da­men­tally, within the mo­tion, like mod­i­fy­ing Hal­ibur­ton House, I don’t know if that’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity, quite frankly,” Ivey said. “I think we’re reach­ing too far.”

He also said there’s no def­i­ni­tion of what the re­birth of the Stan­nus Rink would look like. He’s con­cerned that mod­i­fy­ing Hal­ibur­ton House and look­ing into re­pur­pos­ing the Stan­nus Rink were out­side of coun­cil’s abil­ity or man­date.

“We have done no pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on this, I know peo­ple… say we have, but we haven’t,” he said. “We’re vot­ing on a mo­tion that is putting us down a path with­out any con­trol over the num­bers that sur­round this project.”

He said the mo­tion was an “open door” to pro­ceed with­out all of the in­for­ma­tion.

“We’ve had no fi­nan­cials pre­sented about what this op­tion is go­ing to cost us as it re­lates to lo­cat­ing this rink up at Long Pond,” Ivey said. “We have no num­bers, we have had no anal­y­sis on the tax im­pact on the cit­i­zens of the Town of Wind­sor… and now we’re go­ing to own the rink all on our own.”

Chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Louis Coutinho said the town has “a re­ally good es­ti­mate” about how much the fa­cil­ity could cost but couldn’t pro­vide the full num­bers un­til a Class D es­ti­mate is done. Now that the Long Pond site is se­lected, that process can be­gin, he added.

Wind­sor coun­cil pre­vi­ously agreed on the Long Pond site as their pre­ferred lo­ca­tion dur­ing a re­cent com­mit­tee of the whole meet­ing.

Ivey pro­posed amend­ing the mo­tion, rec­om­mend­ing re­mov­ing the Hal­ibur­ton House and Stan­nus Rink portion un­til those two com­po­nents are bet­ter de­fined. He also pro­posed that town staff be­gin work on ob­tain­ing all nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion on the rink project so coun­cil can re­view the in­for­ma­tion be­fore ad­vanc­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion.

That amend­ment was not sec­onded by any other coun­cil­lor and, as a re­sult, did not pro­ceed to a vote.

Where’s the money?

Coutinho told coun­cil an ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign will need to be com­pleted be­fore a Class D es­ti­mate can be done.

He said the fa­cil­ity’s entrance will high­light the town’s hockey her­itage with ap­prox­i­mately 500 seats in­side.

He cau­tioned the coun­cil that staff now only have five weeks to fundraise, with the hope of net­ting an ad­di­tional $1 mil­lion for the project.

If no ad­di­tional fundrais­ing comes in, and the fed­eral govern­ment signs on to the project for one-third of con­struc­tion costs, the arena will be a $7.5 mil­lion fa­cil­ity. With­out fed­eral funds, the town has $5 mil­lion to work with, with funds com­ing from its own cof­fers, $1 mil­lion from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of West Hants and $3 mil­lion from the prov­ince.

With an ad­di­tional $1 mil­lion in fundrais­ing, the fa­cil­ity could in­crease to a $9 mil­lion arena.

Ei­ther way, Coutinho said the arena will have to be rel­a­tively mod­est, with room to ex­pand and add on ameni­ties later, such as walk­ing trails.

The re­cently-re­named GFL Recre­ation Cen­tre in Brook­lyn cost ap­prox­i­mately $6.7 mil­lion to build.

Coutinho said fundrais­ing had been go­ing rel­a­tively well ear­lier in the process, in terms of pledges from pri­vate donors, but that was stalled af­ter the town and Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of West Hants took over own­er­ship in or­der to se­cure fed­eral funds.

All of the fundrais­ing was pledges, not ac­tual cash.

When asked what the con­tin­gency will be if the project be­comes too ex­pen­sive, Coutinho said the coun­cil would have to de­cide how to move for­ward.

“Coun­cil has made dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions in the past,” Coutinho said, re­fer­ring to the waste­water treat­ment plant.

“They might come back and say, ‘It’s im­pos­si­ble, it can’t be done,’ at which point we’ll come back to coun­cil and say, ‘We have no project to move for­ward, what would you like us to do?’ It might be some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent from what we’ve dis­cussed.”

‘It’s a boon­dog­gle’

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Ivey re­mains con­cerned about the short-term and long-term costs this fa­cil­ity could present to the tax­pay­ers of the town.

“$6.7 mil­lion, that’s what it cost (the Brook­lyn arena) two years ago, and we should take no con­so­la­tion know­ing that the land was al­ready done, they al­ready had their ice plant, their Zam­boni, sup­plies they saved,” he said. “To do that rink again to­day would be $9 mil­lion. Us think­ing that $9 mil­lion is go­ing to cut it to get a rink up at KES isn’t even go­ing to come close.”

He added that the pub­lic had not been brought into the dis­cus­sion.

“For four years, we have told the pub­lic, ‘ We will con­sult with you.’ We have done this ha­bit­u­ally as a coun­cil. And again, we’re mak­ing a de­ci­sion and we’re leav­ing them out, and we want the pub­lic to get be­hind us on this?” he said.

“It’s a boon­dog­gle, it’s a boon- dog­gle.”

The mo­tion passed af­ter that re­mark, with all but Ivey vot­ing in favour.

Mayor Anna Allen said the pub­lic would be en­gaged “when we have some­thing to show (them).”

“We are not go­ing to over­build, we’re go­ing to build some­thing we can af­ford,” Allen added.

‘So ex­cit­ing’

For Allen, the rink rep­re­sents some­thing to move the com­mu­nity for­ward.

“This is so ex­cit­ing. When’s the last time we’ve had a new build in this com­mu­nity? Su­per 8, yeah, we’ve got a new apart­ment build­ing go­ing up, when’s the last time we’ve had some­thing so ex­cit­ing to take this com­mu­nity for­ward?” Allen asked. “Please, un­less you’ve got a re­ally grave con­cern, please ad­dress it here to get the an­swers and get the truth. There’s a lot of crap go­ing on out there peo­ple, it needs to stop.”

Allen said the town will have a pub­lic meet­ing about the arena at a later date.

“This com­mu­nity de­serves some­thing re­ally nice,” she said. “It’s been a long time com­ing, so let’s get to­gether, let’s make it hap­pen, some­thing we can af­ford and some­thing that will work for the com­mu­nity.”

Mur­ley said she was pleased that coun­cil was mov­ing for­ward.

“Now is the time to come to­gether to re­al­ize this dream,” Mur­ley said. “It’s time to hit the ground run­ning, there’s not more time for stalling on this. I be­lieve that fundrais­ing is pos­si­ble and that we need to have a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude that will gar­ner trust in those who may want to in­vest.”

Face­book post ad­dressed

Af­ter the mo­tion was passed, Allen and Coutinho dis­cussed a Face­book post that was pub­lished by Harry Ul­lock, a res­i­dent of the town and mem­ber of the Wind­sor Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety, which they said was in­ac­cu­rate and at­tacked the rep­u­ta­tion of coun­cil and staff.

“I gen­er­ally don’t re­spond to many of th­ese things, be­cause I think peo­ple have ev­ery right to be en­gaged and ex­press their opin­ions,” Coutinho said. “But there were some ac­cu­sa­tions that were made on Face­book and it has to do with (Mayor Anna Allen’s) rep­u­ta­tion and my in­tegrity.”

Coutinho ini­tially be­gan go­ing through Ul­lock’s Face­book post point-by-point, say­ing it’s im­por­tant that this type of in­for­ma­tion cease in the pub­lic do­main. He did this in front of the pub­lic gallery, with Ul­lock in the au­di­ence.

“Mr. Ul­lock, the rea­son the study was done, is be­cause there was a de­bate in the com­mu­nity,” Coutinho said. “Some­body or­dered a study so that our coun­cils could make a de­ci­sion.”

Ivey took ex­cep­tion to this, call­ing out, “Point of or­der,” and say­ing that it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate as the pub­lic has not had a chance to give in­put on the project.

“I can ap­pre­ci­ate that what­ever was writ­ten on­line, which I have yet to re­view, but if we’re go­ing to en­gage in a tit-for-tat here on what one of the cit­i­zens wrote be­cause we’re not will­ing to have an open pub­lic fo­rum with them, I do not be­lieve it’s ap­pro­pri­ate that our CAO sit here and choose to en­gage in de­bate,” Ivey said. “To be fair.”

Coutinho con­tin­ued some re­marks, but Ivey re­peated, “point of or­der.”

Ul­lock, who also sub­mit­ted the post as a let­ter to the ed­i­tor to the Val­ley Jour­nal-Ad­ver­tiser, said he wishes he could have re­sponded back.

In the let­ter, Ul­lock cri­tiques the arena se­lec­tion process, say­ing coun­cil ig­nored the find­ings of the fea­si­bil­ity study. He sug­gests that Went­worth Road would have been a wiser op­tion for coun­cil to make, given the al­ready up­graded roads.

“Louis doesn’t take crit­i­cism of any kind lightly,” Ul­lock said.

Town staff has pub­lished a fact sheet on the Town of Wind­sor web­site to ad­dress some of the ques­tions and ru­mours in the com­mu­nity sur­round­ing the project.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, Allen said dis­cus­sions on up­grad­ing Col­lege Road and other ac­cess points to the arena will be dis­cussed at a later time.

“I can’t see staff deal­ing with that at this point be­cause we have five weeks to get this go­ing, they need to get the Class D es­ti­mate,” Allen said. “The (Col­lege Road) up­grades are in our plan any­way, and we’ll deal with that when we can.”

Coun­cil­lor Jim Ivey

Wind­sor Mayor Anna Allen

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