‘We need a win’

West Hants coun­cil ap­proves arena pro­ject at Hants County Ex­hi­bi­tion lo­ca­tion

Valley Journal Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - BY COLIN CHISHOLM WIND­SOR

If the arena pro­ject were a hockey game, West Hants just ap­proved it in over­time.

Af­ter years of de­bate, back-and­forth, stud­ies, and hurt feel­ings, Wind­sor will fi­nally be get­ting a new arena, thanks to the Mu­nici- pal­ity of West Hants.

In a unan­i­mous vote Aug. 21, West Hants coun­cil ap­proved a mo­tion to guar­an­tee ap­prox­i­mately $4.5 mil­lion in funds to be put to­wards an arena at the Hants County Ex­hi­bi­tion grounds, lo­cated off of Went­worth Road in Wind­sor.

West Hants’ arena pro­ject is es­ti­mated to cost $10.5 mil­lion in to­tal, which in­cludes the 44,000 square foot fa­cil­ity, park­ing lot, HST, land pur­chase from the Wind­sor Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety, and a 20 per cent contin­gency. How­ever, the de­sign has yet to be fi­nal­ized.

The pro­ject could also al­low for fu­ture ex­pan­sion via a sec­ond phase, which could in­cor­po­rate an in­door soccer rink, which would be con­sid­ered at a later time.

The meet­ing on Aug. 21 was called quickly, af­ter the mu­nic­i­pal­ity de­cided to pur­sue their own pro­ject, fol­low­ing Wind­sor coun­cil’s de­ci­sion ear­lier in the month to pull the Long Pond arena pro­ject. Wind­sor’s coun­cil cited cost over­runs and com­mu­nity divi­sion for why they couldn’t pur­sue the pro­ject.

West Hants War­den Abra­ham Ze­bian said he wanted to en­sure the re­gion didn’t lose out on an op­por­tu­nity to se­cure a com­bined $6 mil­lion in pro­vin­cial and fed­eral fund­ing.

“It’s ob­vi­ous that coun­cil rec­og­nized the need for a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion to this pro­ject saga,” Ze­bian said. “We need a win.”

Sev­eral coun­cil­lors raised con­cerns, in­clud­ing the po­ten­tial for the tax rate to in­crease if West Hants is on the hook for the en­tire $4.5 mil­lion, and po­ten­tially dip­ping into the re­serve funds.

Ze­bian said he was hope­ful that the Town of Wind­sor, cor­po­rate spon­sors and fundrais­ers will rally around this new pro­ject.

“With a very short pe­riod of time, we wanted to present what would be the worst case sce­nario to our coun­cil and res­i­dents, and even the worst case sce­nario is still pretty good,” he said.

“The sup­port is still there from the ear­lier pro­posal, it’s just shifted to this site,” Ze­bian con­tin­ued.

“I’m more than con­fi­dent that we’ll be break­ing ground by May (2019) and all of the money will be ac­counted for,” he said.

Paul Phillips, pres­i­dent of the West Hants Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion, said he was thrilled with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s de­ci­sion, say­ing the area needs two ice sur­faces.

“We needed some­thing, we were happy with what­ever lo­ca­tion it was go­ing to be,” Phillips said af­ter West Hants voted. “I think re­gard­less of where your po­si­tion was, for Long Pond or against it, I think peo­ple will be on board with this. It’s a good thing for the com­mu­nity.”

West Hants Chief Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fi­cer Martin Lay­cock said the next steps the mu­nic­i­pal­ity will take will be work­ing with pro­vin­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tives to make sure the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­ceeds through the Small Com­mu­ni­ties Fund.

“I think our big­gest thing is to get the fundrais­ing com­po­nent up and run­ning and I’ll be reach­ing out to (CAO Louis Coutinho) who has some ex­pe­ri­ence with this,” he said.

‘Good luck on your pro­ject’

Wind­sor town coun­cil voted to sup­port the West Hants arena pro­ject to the tune of $1 mil­lion spread out over five years.

The funds will come from the op­er­a­tional re­serve ac­count ($800,000) and cap­i­tal re­serve ($200,000).

Money will be­gin flow­ing once the pro­ject breaks ground.

Dur­ing a packed spe­cial meet­ing of coun­cil on Aug. 23, which in­cluded sev­eral mem­bers of West Hants coun­cil in the au­di­ence, Wind­sor coun­cil­lors agreed that a new ice sur­face is nec­es­sary to meet the recre­ational needs of the re­gion, de­spite some dis­com­fort with the lack of de­tail in the pro­posal.

Now the ques­tion re­mains where West Hants will get the re­main­ing funds to off­set its fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment for the pro­ject, be it through com­mu­nity fundrais­ing or cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship.

The fa­cil­ity would be sub­ject to town prop­erty tax, as it sits within town lim­its, un­less West Hants coun­cil re­quests a tax ex­emp­tion from the town and the town ap­proves.

Be­fore coun­cil ap­proved the grant, coun­cil­lors dis­cussed what the best way to de­liver those funds would be, even­tu­ally set­tling on $1 mil­lion over five years for fi­nan­cial con­fi­dence.

“I would be more con­fi­dent in spread­ing that (fund­ing) as the pro­ject evolves,” Mayor Anna Allen said. “In­stead of a mil­lion out front, this al­lows us an op­por­tu­nity to sup­port the hockey her­itage projects.”

The town’s CAO noted that the pro­posal plan lacks de­tails, but given the tight time frame in which to meet the Small Com­mu­ni­ties Fund dead­line, that was to be ex­pected.

Coun. Jim Ivey wanted to see the town’s con­tri­bu­tion spread out over three years, but coun­cil stuck with five.

A pre­vi­ous mo­tion to al­lo­cate $1 mil­lion in fund­ing to­wards hockey her­itage ini­tia­tives was re­scinded.

Coun. Shel­ley Bibby be­gan to cry as she read a pre­pared state­ment dur­ing dis­cus­sions, high­light­ing the divi­sion in the com­mu­nity as the de­bate over the arena pro­ject took its toll over the past four years.

“I will com­ment that the jour­ney of this pro­ject has been a de­mon- stra­tion of ev­ery­thing that can pos­si­bly go wrong with a com­mu­nity en­deav­our,” Bibby said.

“What started as an idea from what I be­lieve to be some sin­cere and well-in­ten­tioned cit­i­zens then be­came a col­lab­o­ra­tive com­mu­nity ef­fort but some­how mor­phed into a bat­tle of win­ners and losers, he said/she said and bit­ter and nasty state­ments…,” she con­tin­ued.

“But I will tell you that there have been times that I am em­bar­rassed to ad­mit that I am an elected of­fi­cial in this com­mu­nity,” she added.

Bibby said that she would sup­port $1 mil­lion go­ing to­wards the rink pro­ject as long as some­thing is done to ac­knowl­edge and sup­port the hockey her­itage at Long Pond and other sites.

A new mo­tion was put on the books, ask­ing the CAO to find ways to iden­tify hockey her­itage op­tions around the Long Pond site in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Wind­sor Hockey Her­itage So­ci­ety.

“Thank you West Hants and good luck on your pro­ject,” Allen said af­ter the mo­tion was ap­proved.

CON­TRIBUTED

This is an artist’s ren­der­ing of what the new West Hants arena could look like when built on Went­worth Road in Wind­sor.

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