Central committee continues to look at viability of securing multi-use community facility

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MINDEMOYA – The Central Manitoulin Recreation Centre Committee seeking to determine the viability of securing a multi-use facility in the town of Mindemoya met May 22 with chair Angela Johnston, Councillor Dale Scott, municipal coordinator Silvio Berti and committee members April Watson, Leslie McDermid, Lana Kutchaw, Marcus Mohr, Jordan Smith, Ron Wouthuis and Brian Phelps in attendance. The potential complex might replace aging buildings and arenas that have seen their use no longer financially viable.

The Municipality of Central Manitoulin strategic plan 2016-2021 outlined, in section five, to explore the reduction of municipal buildings based on use, asset condition and level of service.

The committee examined the 2018 revenue and operating expenditures summaries for eight such buildings throughout the municipality.

Chairperson Johnston spoke of the two municipally-owned buildings in Sandfield, saying that these structures are leased by a community group and are low cost to the municipality. “The people (who use them) are old,” she told committee members, “so they (structures) will probably not be used much longer.”

Actually, the Sandfield School House, about six years old, is used by different groups including the Manitoulin Tourism Association (MTA) and the Lake Manitou Area Association. It is also in demand for weddings and get-togethers, the meeting was told. Euchre starts this week and will no doubt be a well-attended weekly event. The Andy Watson funeral took place there recently and the building was packed.

The other structure in Sandfield that is under review by this committee is the Big Lake Community Centre formerly named the School House. The Big Lake Community Association works to keep the School House operational as a community focal point and the Women’s Institute holds meetings there including the ever-popular annual luncheon where the Ward 3 citizen of the year award is presented, with this year’s event taking place on June 15. Euchre parties are held here every Monday night at 7:30 pm. There will be a wedding dinner party this summer and private parties also take place, including the Brown family reunion that had 100 people in attendance. The outstanding annual fish suppers and hillbilly steak dinners have been held for many years and the Christadelphians also make good use of this centre. As well, the building is used for a get-together every November after the Remembrance Day ceremony held at the cenotaph. To save on costs the building is closed for the winter.

It should be noted that these buildings are completely looked after by the citizens of Ward 3, noted the committee, including the payments for heat and hydro, telephone, cleaning and liability insurance.

Ms. Johnston added that the Mindemoya Old School building would not be considered at the present time as the group “waits for the (Old School Repurposing) committee determination.” 

Councillor Scott spoke of the total expenses on all the buildings in question saying, “The rec centre will not get rid of all the buildings, but some. Over $2 million in expenses for renovations is really substantial.”

“I was surprised that all the buildings were being used,” Mr. Wouthius noted.

The community discussed the future capital expenditures of the buildings of interest including accessibility upgrades. “Providence Bay Hall is pretty well done,” Ms. Johnston told the committee, noting that the two Central Manitoulin arenas and the Mindemoya community hall make up the majority of the $820,000 needed for accessibility.

In discussion regarding the Mindemoya arena, Councillor Scott also noted that “engineers are going in so expenses could be double this amount. Council has to make a pretty big decision within the next couple of months r.e. the Mindemoya arena. The worst scenario is that the engineers say you can’t use it this season. Providence Bay is the only answer if this arena is condemned.”

Staff representative Sylvio Berti noted during this arena discussion that the cost for a new average arena is $6 million. When asked if there are grants for arenas, he replied, “No.” Councillor Scott added that “the cost of engineering and design can mitigate things down the road.”

Mr. Mohr spelled out the need for two more dressing rooms in the arena and said that “a new complex would alleviate the cost of improvements to the Mindemoya arena.” 

Councillor Scott suggested that perhaps both arenas could be combined over the next two years “I really think that would really help the problem,” he said. “It might be an option.”

When members then talked of problems that this would create, including with the referees and the canteen, Ms. Watson said, “if we know that the new arena is coming soon, we can deal with it.”

The committee then discussed reaching out to find the uses of the arenas from the hockey association, the Lions Clubs and the Providence Bay community centre board and others.

“Who’s using the ice?” Councillor Johnston said. “Would they continue to use it in the same way if there was a new complex? The pushback will come from Prov. We will have to bring the Prov Community Centre on board. The push-back will come re the two tournaments they have at Prov. The Prov arena can still be used if the ice is gone. We are not tearing the building down.” In so saying, Ms. Johnston allayed the concerns of Providence Bay residents when she was quoted as saying, “Prov will close when the new complex is built” at a council meeting.

Councillor Johnston and the committee also discussed the potential of the new facility for future use, including having the hockey tournament that is usually held in Little Current brought to Mindemoya which would be a boon to the community in terms of motel and cabin rentals and restaurant usage as well as for such events as road hockey, broomball, curffle, soccer, ringette and so on. 

“You could have a concert in the arena and you would attract a lot of people,” Councillor Scott noted. “With IT and computers—you could do anything.”

Ms. Johnston also spoke of the survey that was done by the Mindemoya Old School Repurposing Committee (MOSRC), noting that “It has some issues.” 

Mr. Mohr suggested the committee use a mail-out survey as results can be skewed using other types. The mailed survey would then be sent to the 2,187 people living in Central Manitoulin. In speaking of the MOSRC survey, Councillor Johnston said people were in favour of different activities, but “just not in that building.”

The committee members also discussed taking used equipment that may come from the arenas and community buildings including fridges, the (ice resurfacer) etc. to use in the new facility. “We have to be good stewards of the things we use,” said Councillor Scott. “If it is feasible.”  

Ms. Johnston tabled the Mike Bridgeman report that was on the agenda for the next meeting. “There is a tremendous amount of information there,” Councillor Scott said, “and I think it would be really useful to us.”

The meeting ended with members taking on projects as the committee’s work moves forward.