In a report brought to Council by the Director of Community Services, Jayne Jagelewski, it was recommended that staff “… proceed with advancing the Aquatic Recreation Centre
Business Plan and funding application based on the Community Complex as the
Council however, in a seven to two vote did not agree and decided to defer the decision to October 15th. (Councilor Myette and Mayor Charbonneau opposed).
Most Councilors said that they wanted to see a solid business plan first before making any decision on the site location for what would be the “biggest project that Saugeen Shores has ever undertaken” given that the facility would cost millions of dollars.
A recent announcement made by the Federal Government of the ‘Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’ opens the door to possible funding through a ‘Community, Culture and Recreation’ funding stream however, there may only be one chance to take advantage of the program and the deadline is November.
Jagelewski’s report cites that ” …it is imperative that Staff and Council continue to solidify plans and progress forward. The ability to be able to provide a complete application will be to our greater benefit and support our ability to proceed with the project at all based
on the required funding and partners required. Identifying a preferred location for a new facility is the anchor to having a solid proposal ready for funding sources. It also assists in eliminating assumptions as the Business Plan is being prepared (to be presented in 2019 Q4). Delaying the direction will require another consultant study and significantly impact the timing of the project.”
Deputy Mayor Don Matheson said that Council is being asked to accept the recommendation of the Plex being the site for the new facility and he firmly stated “I cannot accept this report at this time. I was elected five years ago by the people of Southampton and ran on a recreation reform platform. I have a diverse background in recreation and athletics being a teacher of physical education, a coach and participant.”
Matheson went on to say that the plan needs a “little work”. Although the report says that the need for a second ice surface at the Plex is many years, possibly decades out, Matheson disagreed saying that there is a ‘boom’ happening in public school registrations and that Saugeen Shores, in that respect, “is an anomaly in the Province with schools over capacity”. He pointed out that there is actually a waiting list for minor hockey and that players are having to travel to other communities to rent ice time and does not take into account Figure skating, the Lakeshore hockey league, Senior Men’s Winterhawks or other users. “We will need a second ice surface sooner than expected.” “We do not even have a workable business plan and don’t know if we will be partnering with the ‘Y’. Therefore, I cannot make a decision today if i don’t know what the business plan is and it would not be responsible for us to do so.” He also said that the newly acquired and named Lamont Sports Park would be an “ideal location”. “This decision should be the right one and not a rushed one as it will affect the entire community for the next 40 years.”
Councilor Dave Myette said however, that he would support the recommendation set out in the report. “Having an aquatic facility attached to the Plex just makes a lot of sense. Other towns have ‘clusters’ of recreational activities and this is the best location.”
Vice Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt said that he, too, needed to “… look at the numbers. I cannot support the Plex as being the preferred site without seeing a business plan. The ‘Y’ in Owen Sound is 40,000 sq. feet and sits on 6.4 acres with the .4 used as parking. While we may not require that size, we only have four acres left on this site and that includes three wells at the back where, I was advised, we cannot build on top. I also see that now we are talking about a fitness facility, walking track and other amenities. We are also now talking about another study for $25,000. So, we don’t know if we are looking at a $20, $25 or $30 million project.”
He pointed out that in the original plan for the Plex a second ice surface was recommended and that by 2030 the population will be 20,000 people. “Let’s get the ‘Y’ business plan in front of us first and see where we can go from there.”
Councilor Jami Smith pointed out that “… as elected officials we are here to make decisions on behalf of the people we represent. I think it is prudent for us to take the time that we need, to get the answers that we need to make a decision that is in the best interests of the public.” She said that according to the Ministry, although a site selection would be advantageous for an application for funding, a solid business plan was also a criteria. “We simply have not seen it (business plan) and we are eager, anxious and willing to work with staff to find an appropriate business plan and model that will work.”
Councilor Kristan Shrider also said that she could not support the report. “Things have changed dramatically in the community since the site selection made the Plex the preferred site. I think there is a need for a second ice surface and if we approve this site for the Aquatic facility we will be land-locking ourselves.”
Councilor John Rich raised the concern that if the report was not approved the project may be pushed back again. “We could take the BMX track out .. and we might be able to make this space work.” He then asked, “If we deferred this for a month, would it be possible to have a business plan?”
CAO David Smith said that staff, like Council, were frustrated with the process. “There are many variables … and staff would like clear direction from Council, particularly on a ‘Y’ partnership as that’s a very large variable. If the Plex is not a location, although it was at one time, then we will start over to look at somewhere else.”
Councilor Cheryl Grace pointed out that the Ministry in meetings said that the more amenities (e.g. fitness facility) that could be offered to the community, the better the chance at success with funding. “Perhaps we could strike a committee to do an analysis and look at different sites.”
Mayor Luke Charbonneau pointed out that a number of reports had been done over several years. “If we are going to reject this site, then we need a more fulsome site selection process rather than something quick. We need to do it right. Also the final results have to come back to Council to be approved. I want everyone to be onside with whatever approach we take so we are not back here again. I am however, very reticent to support a quick solution and, if people say they don’t want this site, then we need a fulsome and well-organized review of all potential locations that are available and that will take time.”
Matheson made the motion to defer the decision until Council’s concerns were answered by staff.
Council concerns are:
- Will the ‘Y’ business plan be available in time
- Can a parking lot be placed at the south end of the Plex given the location of wells
- Will construction at the Plex interfere with in-ground heating pipes for the administration building and the new Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII)
- Is there enough space to accommodate a facility similar to the Owen Sound ‘Y’
- Where will the Administration offices expand into
- What will happen with the Municipal parking lot on the east side of the building
- Where will a second ice surface be located
- Where will the emergency generator be located
- Have local businesses that will be affected been contacted
CAO Smith added that a consultant would be required for technical aspects.
“Council will need to decide but there are a lot of implications. Wherever we put it there are complications and Council will face opposition of some kind on any site location,” said Mayor Charbonneau. “Thanks to the Vice Deputy Mayor, this funding window was opened up and to miss the window (for funding) because we can’t make a decision would be tragic. If we don’t put a strong foot forward and the application fails, and we don’t get the significant amount, then we jeopardize the viability of the entire project. If the choice threatens the financial integrity of the Municipality, then I will not vote for it. I won’t do it …. every penny that we can get will be needed to make this work. Building this facility will be one of the most massive investments we have ever made in recreation … let’s come back here in October and make a decision on location, get the application in, move this thing forward and have a decision to construct at the end of this term. Let’s figure out how to do it.”