Saugeen Shores proposed aquatic-recreation centre location still undecided

Once again, Saugeen Shores Council Chambers was filled to overflowing at Tuesday night’s meeting (Oct. 15) with the aquatic centre location and proposed YMCA partnership and the proposed Port Elgin beach development being the main areas of interest.

                                  A crowded chamber indicates community interest …

Before Saugeen Shores Council meeting began (Oct. 15), at its Open Forum, resident Denise Sayers raised concerns over having the YMCA as a partner in the proposed Aquatic recreation centre.  “How is our Saugeen Shores Lifesaving Club (SSLC) going to be protected?  The SSLC train for upwards of nine hours every week and has been recognized world-wide competing in Nationals where they placed second and are about to travel to compete n the Commonwealth competitions and in the Worlds in Italy in 2020.”

According to Sayers, YMCA lifesaving across Canada only allows two-hour training per week compared to SSLC’s nine hours.  “Even Toronto and Brampton teams cannot compete at our level.  Which, by the way, brings recognition to Saugeen Shores and it’s all because of our coaches.  We need a written guarantee that this will all continue.”

Deputy Mayor Don Matheson also questioned how pool use, if YMCA implemented, would affect high school students who use the current school pool extensively for physical education.

Jagelewski confirmed that, in Owen Sound (geographically the next closest YMCA), students are responsible for acquiring their own memberships. Also, the Breakers Swim Team is a Saugeen Shores ‘club’ while the Saugeen Shores Lifesaving Club (SSLC) does not have the same status.

Vice-deputy Mayor Mike Smith asked if the staff of the SSLC would be assured that their jobs would be on-going.  CAO David Smith said it would be “… irresponsible at his point to look four years down the road … as to whether their jobs would be viable.”

In a report by Director of Community Services, Jayne Jagelewski, it was recommended by staff that the Plex is the preferred location.  “It will provide 284 parking spaces compared to Owen Sound’s 328.”

Councilor Jami Smith said that comparing Owen Sound with the Plex “… is not comparing apples with apples.   Owen Sound is completely different when it comes to ice use.  One pad in Owen Sound has one ice pad with no seating and we do not know the capacity of the other.”

Jagelewski went on to say that the Plex would become a one-stop shop recreation site and that merging the operations would “equate to operating efficiencies utilizing the existing geo-thermal system by using rejected heat from the arena system to create warm water, fresh air and warm water for change rooms to help reduce utility costs.

Councilor Kristan Shrider however, raised the issue of combined services such as the HVAC system.  “The proposal actually shows an independent HVAC system from the Plex. One of the main motivators however to choose the Plex location, was to become more efficient and to have our waste from our refrigeration plant used throughout the facility.  If not tied in together however, why is that not in the plan that has come before us?”

Jagelewski said that technical aspects have not yet been determined until more detailed drawings are completed and that there are more motivators than just the HVAC system.

CAO David Smith said that, in the budget, there was separate funding for heating and ventilation.  “We have consulted with the original architect and cannot assume that we can’t make use of that excess heat and that the piping cannot be extended.  There are much larger considerations to locate the Y here.  We are looking at creating a community hub.”

Shrider also pointed out however, that the system was 20 years old and and an audit should be done to determine if the old system could be tied into a new system as it will be 25 years old by the time a new facility is constructed. “I am also concerned that a facility like this (Y) will impact our local fitness businesses.”

Following the Open Forum and, after a lengthy discussion and debate, Council decided in a recorded vote that the Plex, as the proposed new aquatic/recreation centre, would be revisited before a final decision is made as to location.  Those who opposed the Plex as the outright selected location until hearing other suggestions, were Vice-deputy Mayor Mike Myatt, Councilors, Jami Smith, Kristan Shrider and Matt Carson and Deputy Mayor Don Matheson.

The Committee of Whole however, recommended that Council receive the Business Plan for a YMCA membership-based recreation facility and that Town staff be directed to develop a formal agreement with the YMCA, subject to YMCA Board approval.

It also recommended that Council supports the funding application for a YMCA for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – Community, Culture, and Recreation in the “Multi-Purpose Category.”

When it comes to location however, Vice-deputy Mayor Mike Myatt said that, “I am still not 100 per cent sold or convinced and I think we are trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. Our arena is very well attended and a family Y is going to require a whole lot of more space for parking and so is the Rotary Hall.  There will also be the new Innovation Centre next door along with the town administration.  It looks good on paper but I also don’t see much landscaping in the plan but do see a lot of asphalt.”

“The rules have changed. We are now talking about a ‘Y’ facility and fitness facility that adds a lot of vehicles at this location.  We are also now looking at a much bigger facility (than the original) and a lot more parking required.  This is a $25 million decision and it’s okay to take a step back.  We made a decision this evening on going with a ‘Y’ operation but it’s okay to step back to make a decision that’s right.”

Myatt went on to say that an Ad Hoc Advisory Committee was struck to look at other location alternatives and to bring back its recommendations for October 28th.  “There are three other locations that have been considered by the Ad Hoc Aquatic Committee and the Committee should be heard out.  I know there is a grant application but site is not mandatory when it comes to submitting the application for funding.”

Mayor Luke Charbonneau said that it is Council’s final decision for location but that he would like to see the grant application prepared for submission by the November 12 deadline to the Province.

Councilor Cheryl Grace questioned if staff would see the Ad Hoc report before Council.  CAO David Smith said,  “It is very concerning that we are being asked to look at a brand new site that we haven’t considered.  It is hard to think of the process involved.”

While the location choice was deferred to October 28th, the decision to accept the recent YMCA business plan was approved.