Decision time for Central Park facility 0
COLLINGWOOD — The future of Central Park could be the biggest decision made by this term of council.
But whether it’s the $35-million project proposed by the committee tasked to come up with a plan, or a phased-in approach advocated by some councillors, remains to be seen.
Since March, councillors have been grappling with the plan that would see a twin ice pad and community space tied into a larger building that would include the Collingwood YMCA and the curling club. The existing ball diamonds on the site would be moved to another location.
Tied in to those decisions is the future of the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena, and whether the 63-year-old facility continues as an ice rink, or another use is found.
On Monday night, councillors will be presented with recommendations on how the municipality may proceed.
“I’m looking for a reasonable, affordable approach to getting ice, and a swimming facility — and how we do that is what we need to determine,” said Councillor Kevin Lloyd. “We need some reasonable alternatives and a reasonable strategy.“I like the plan (the committee) put together — it identified the needs, and it identified Central Park as the location.”
But, he said, the price tag causes him to pause — though he acknowledges council needs to move ahead.
“We don’t want to screw around with this for another two years,” he said. “People have been waiting a long time (for these facilities) and they deserve it.”
Councillor Dale West believes the town should still advertise for expressions of interest from a private partner, noting there have been some “knocking on the door.
“In the end, we still have an idea that’s good for the community… we have to do something,” he said. “We can’t not address the issues that there’s not enough ice time, or we need a pool.”
If it needs to be phased in because of financing, said West, “that’s not hodgepodge, that’s the beginning of a plan and it puts us miles ahead of anything else that’s been accomplished (for recreational facilities) in the last 20 years.
“If I’ve heard anything in the last few months, it’s that we don’t leave (the community) without anything.”
West said that council could take steps — such as covering the outdoor rink — and then start putting money aside to build what could ultimately be the vision presented by the Central Park Steering Committee.
“That would be more sensible than us just spinning our wheels,” he said.
Councillor Sandy Cunningham also advocates enclosing the outdoor rink. He also doesn’t favour “pulling the plug” on the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena as a hockey rink — at least not until the population can financially support a twin ice pad.
“We’re a community of 20,000 people, and how much borrowed money do we have to go after to meet… a lot of ‘wants’?” he questioned.
“In the big picture, we have to do something to alleviate the issue of ice time.“I’m not in favour of getting rid of the Eddie Bush… it’s not sentimental, and at some time down the road when we’re at 30,000 or 35,000, it will be time to look at (another use),” he said. “But pulling the plug on it now doesn’t make sense to me.”
Councillor Joe Gardhouse says he would like to see a consensus on moving ahead with some sort of plan that ultimately sees a multi-use facility built — but he doesn’t believe Central Park is the right spot.
Gardhouse says the costs and the size of the space make the park unsuitable for a facility.
“There’s all sorts of ideas, but I want to hear more discussion on what the costs are, first,” he said. “Central Park is too expensive, and it doesn’t make sense to do it there.”
Councillor Ian Chadwick, however, says he wants to be certain council has all the information it needs to make an informed decision. He doesn’t believe council has a complete understanding of how a facility — regardless of what shape it takes — will be funded.
“I feel like we’re being pressured to make a decision before we know everything,” he said. “We still don’t have all sorts of information on what alternatives there are.“I don’t think we can commit the taxpayers to a $35-million bill unless we have a lot more solid material in place, such as (potential) third-party funding.”
Councillor Keith Hull also doesn’t mind taking a couple of weeks before making a decision — but it’s more to mull over the recommendations that will be presented on Monday night.
“We need to receive the information, and have the time to digest it,” he said, “and then determine what we’re taking is the next best step moving forward.”
Hull supports going ahead with a ‘market sounding’ by a consultant, to determine if there’s private interests out there willing to step forward with cash. He pointed out council originally supported that motion, but when it came to the cost — $40,000 — that’s “when the wheels fell off.
“We may find there is no money out there, or we may surprise ourselves and find some who is willing to work with us… and that may open up other opportunities,” he said. “For the sake of a couple of months and $40,000, I don’t know why we would not take that opportunity.”
Councillor Mike Edwards also sees a couple of unknowns, one being the relocation of the ball diamonds, and what exactly will be the YMCA’s financial participation.
“I think there are a lot of unknown factors that need to be put in place before we can commit the money,” he said. “The town has some immediate needs, for another ice surface and a six-lane pool.
“But long-term, we need to look at where we’re going and we need to get those questions answers. I think this facility is the way to go, but we have to look at where we will get the funding from… we won’t get funding without a solid plan in place.”
Several councillors expressed support for covering the outdoor rink — and, perhaps, Centennial Pool at Heritage Park. Chadwick suggested using the $1.5 million set aside to pay for a new 25-metre pool at the YMCA for the roof for the outdoor rink.
An initial assessment on costs to cover the outdoor rink, presented to council in 2010, pegged it at $1.15 million.
“We could do that right now without affecting taxpayers,” he said. “We can’t do everything, and we may have to do it in stages — if this takes five or 10 years, that just may be the reality of it, and we have to look at what we can realistically afford.”
But Hull sees that as a short-sighted solution.
“We may appease some who are cost-conscious, but in the long term that may cost more money… and we could be back looking at what we need for facilities,” he said. “I don’t want us to pull the trigger on a knee-jerk solution just to get something done.”
Should Collingwood council stick with the multi-use plan for Central Park presented by the committee?