Central council repairing Mindemoya arena, planning for new recreation centre

A sizable crowd filled the Central Manitoulin council chambers to learn the fate of the Mindemoya arena and plans for a new recreation centre to be located in Mindemoya. photo by Michael Erskine

CENTRAL MANITOULIN – A motion to move ahead with $30,000 in repairs to the Mindemoya arena was hotly debated in front of a standing room only audience gathered at the September 12 meeting of municipal council.

At issue were a number of factors, including the cost of the repairs, the future of the Mindemoya arena, the placement of a new chiller unit and a proposal to proceed with the planning of a new recreational complex to be cited in Mindemoya.

First up on the docket was the acceptance of a structural inspection report on the J.H. Burt Memorial Arena conducted by Tulloch Engineering dated August 13.

“It is a good report that outlines the do’s and not’s,” said Mayor Richard Stephens, but he added that it was not highly detailed.

Councillor Derek Stephens countered that the report was “not as detailed as I would have liked” but that the report was fairly detailed and “did steer us in the right direction as far as I could see.”

The motion, moved by Councillor Steve Shaffer and seconded by Councillor Al Tribinevicius passed.

The next motion dealing with the arena was a recommendation from the Property Committee that the town’s municipal supervisor utilize the report recommendations regarding snow removal from the roof as outlined in the inspection report.

“I think we were looking for an indication of how to instruct our staff to proceed,” said Mayor Stephens. “This gives us the information on how to go ahead.”

The motion, moved by Councillor Tribinevicius and seconded by Councillor Shaffer, passed.

Council then moved onto one of the key motions regarding the fate of the arena, a motion by Steve Shaffer and Linda Farquhar on a recommendation from the Property Committee to proceed immediately with the repairs to the J.H. Burt Memorial Arena recommended by the Tulloch Engineering report. Those repairs totalling $30,000 were: repair roof leak (to be carried out by staff); clean and paint the arch frame bases, including applying preservative to the bases ($4,000); reinforce the roof beam at the ice resurfacer room (the largest item estimated at $20,000); point cracks in masonry at refrigeration and ice resurfacer rooms ($1,000); clean and point masonry at east wall near south end and west wall ($2,500); and repair roof at valley flashing ($2,500).

“I wasn’t in favour of this motion last time and I am not in favour of it now,” said Councillor Stephens. “At some point we have to bite the bullet. This is just a short term fix. The foundations are starting to go. This is just throwing good money after bad—at some point we have to start looking after our aging infrastructure.”

“I must respectfully disagree with my fellow councillor,” said Councillor Shaffer. He went on to point out that the Mindemoya arena is a “critical piece of infrastructure” and that to close the arena at this point would be “a disservice to our youth. Councillor Stephens is correct in that there is no guarantee, but $30,000 is not something that will break council’s back.”

Councillor Angela Johnston noted that “I generally agreed with most of (Councillor Stephens’) facts.” She noted that although the Providence Bay ice surface is slightly smaller, the arena itself is in better shape, but then went on to say that she would support the motion, this time, but she is “drawing a line in the sand. This is it, no more throwing money at a building we are going to replace.” She went on to note that the community would eventually be moving to one complex, whether renovated or new, but that community members were concerned that there was not enough notice provided. “From my point of view, this is notice.”

“I agree with Steve, everything he says,” said Councillor Farquhar. “We can be of service to our taxpayers or we can accumulate money in our account. Tulloch didn’t say (the arena) was going to give out in a year—they said they would come back in five years. We can assume it is safe or they would be saying they would be coming back next year.”

Mayor Stephens said that he was not going to offer an opinion at this time, but went on to say that “we are not investing in a building, we are investing in our community. A building that is not only for our children but for many parents as well. The arena in Mindemoya is the one that has been used the most.” In the end, he said, “we will follow the will of the community.”

Councillor Shaffer called for a recorded vote. Councillor Stephens cast the only negative vote, with Councillors Johnston, Farquhar, Shaffer, Tribinevicius and Mayor Stephens voting in favour of the motion to proceed with the repairs.

The decision generated applause from those attending the meeting in the audience.

A motion to revisit the decision to replace the chiller in the Providence Bay arena instead of the Mindemoya facility engendered a lively debate, with Councillor Shaffer maintaining that the original motion was procedurally incorrect.

Mayor Stephens ruled the original motion to place the chiller in Providence Bay was valid. “It was done and said and it is there,” he said. “We are not going to go back and change history. Unless Angela (Councillor Johnston), Derek (Councillor Stephens) or Al (Councillor Tribinevicius) put the motion on the table for discussion.” Mayor Stephens was referring to a procedural policy that requires one of the councillors who voted in favour of the originally passed motion to bring it back for discussion. Councillor Shaffer and Councillor Dale Scott were not present for the original motion.

The three councillors declined to bring the motion back. Councillor Johnston said that “in hindsight, I wish we had never purchased it (the chiller originally purchased for the Mindemoya arena that is now slated for the Providence Bay arena).” Councillor Tribinevicius noted that once the repairs were completed on the Mindemoya arena, both it and the Providence Bay arena would be fully functioning.

“The good and the bad of it is that both will be open this winter,” said Mayor Stephens. He then asked when the chiller would be installed and if the town had received it yet.

CAO Ruth Frawley noted that the chiller would arrive in “about a week” and that both current chillers are roughly the same age, “20 or 21 years.”

Councillor Shaffer noted that during the capital budget debate it was decided to purchase one chiller this year and the second one in the next budget cycle. “The arena that is used the most is the most logical service area,” he said, going on to once again assert that the motion to move the chiller to Providence Bay was “made improperly.”

Discussion then moved on to the acceptance of the Recreation Centre Feasibility Committee Report and further that the municipality develop plans for a new recreation centre in Mindemoya, moved by committee chair Councillor Johnston and seconded by Councillor Stephens. Councillor Stephens commended Councillor Johnston and her committee for the work they accomplished on the concept.

“It is the first time (the feasibility of building a new modern recreation centre) has got out to committee,” he said. “Support is there for the facility and Mindemoya is the logical location with water and sewer.”

Councillor Stephens went on to say “I am not a proponent of grants” and suggesting that the current provincial atmosphere is not likely to be conducive to providing grants for facilities.

“I do think the committee did a good job,” said Councillor Shaffer. “I will support the motion but I would have preferred if we had supported it in principle. There are still a lot of unanswered questions.”

“One step at a time,” said Mayor Stephens, who also went on the thank Councillor Johnston and her committee.

Councillor Farquhar said that she too was unhappy with the wording of the motion, but that the committee had done an outstanding job. She suggested that there should be a public meeting about the issue. Councillor Tribinevicius also thanked Councillor Johnston. “A new sports/community centre will be good for Mindemoya in the future,” he said. “There will be a lot of spinoffs.”

“There is a lot that remains to be done, the municipal development plan, financial plan, organizational timing, location—we know there is an awful lot of work around questions, but it is a major step in the direction,” said Mayor Stephens.

Council then passed a motion from Councillor Tribinevicius, seconded by Councillor Stephens, that followed a recommendation from the Finance and Administration Committee to apply to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program: Community, Culture and Recreation Stream.

Since municipal staff do not have the available time and resources to complete the application,  the preparation of the application would go to the municipal engineering firm, Tulloch Engineering, and will cost between $25,000 and $50,000.

“I am sure we can come up with the money,” said Councillor Stephens, adding that he did not think it likely that the municipality would get the federal funding in the first round, but that by being in the first round they would automatically be in the running during the second round.

Councillor Shaffer suggested the motion should be split into two separate motions for clarity. Mayor Stephens agreed and the motion was passed as two separate items, one proceeding with the application and the second assigning the work to Tulloch.

Councillor Tribinevicius expressed the hope that Councillor Johnston and her committee would continue to work on the file, a sentiment endorsed by Mayor Stephens. Councillor Johnston said that she could not speak for the whole committee, but that she would be “happy to provide input.”