A lot at stake in arena vote
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | January 31, 2019|
A meeting at Minden Hills council today (Jan. 31) will likely determine if the 2018- 2022 version of local government there will spend arguably the largest amount of money in the township’s history.
Of course, we’re talking about the $12 million S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena refurbishment.
While we don’t expect a final vote at today’s special council meeting, we do anticipate one when council next meets on Feb. 14.
Today’s meeting will give township staff, the architects and builders a chance to disseminate more information on the project to council.
In a nutshell, they’ll tell councillors - and no doubt a packed chamber - that the original builders in the 1970s put chloride salt in the mortar of the masonry brick walls. It was to prevent freezing. However, a big no-no in today’s Canadian Building Code. They’ve now exposed the foundation down to the footings. and concluded much of the foundation and structure is, in their words “not salvageable.”
Sure, they can fix it - at a cost of about $905K, while maintaining the smaller, 185’ rink size. They figure that would give the township another 17 years or so. Or, they can rebuild at about $1.2 to $1.6 million and get another 40-plus-years. [This is just one part of the project].
They’ve made it pretty clear that doing nothing is not an option. After all, various incarnations of Minden Hills council have known for years the arena was destined to be a big problem child and have been nursing it along.
There are some cost-cutting options in the architect/builders report today. They say council could defer work, but it’ll cost a lot of money to keep the aging building up and running. They could also defer parts of the building, for example the gym, until sometime later. They could go back to the existing rink size, not expand, and save $85K.
Some on this council, particularly incumbents Brent Devolin, Lisa Schell, Ron Nesbitt and Jean Neville have invested a lot of time on the arena renewal and will be leaning to finally giving the project the green light.
However, incumbent Pam Sayne has voted ‘no’ since the beginning. Newbies Bob Carter and Jennifer Hughey have both expressed some reservation. They’re not anti-arena redevelopment per se but they are worried about how a township of Minden’s size is going to come up with $12 million. They just want to ensure due diligence, check, check and double check before signing off on this one.
Today’s council has inherited a problem. The council of the day was well meaning in building a facility that has lasted nearly 50 years. Perhaps they could have overseen the building better so the chloride salt and other problems did not occur. However, at the time, they did what was thought necessary.
The township has known since 2010, when AECOM did its structural report, that something had to be done. But it wasn’t until the 2014-2018 council came in that work began to find a solution.
When it finally comes to vote, there is a lot at stake. The biggest spend in the township’s history could serve taxpayers very well into the future, or they could be left with a very sour taste in their mouths and they will remember that taste when it comes time to mark their ballots in 2022.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.