Future of Mindemoya arena the focus of discussion about where new ice chiller will go

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MINDEMOYA – The fate of the Mindemoya arena seemed sealed following an August 22 meeting of the Central Manitoulin council where a motion to send a chiller originally purchased for the Mindemoya site to the Providence Bay arena passed—but a question of procedure has pulled the decision two steps back to the committee level.

The original motion had passed council with only one dissenter (Councillor Linda Farquhar), with Councillor Angela Johnston suggesting that while the Providence Bay arena was in good shape, the smaller ice surface made that location less attractive, but then cited a $1.2 million price tag to bring the Mindemoya site building up to code.

During that meeting Councillor Derek Stephens brought up concerns that the west wall of the Mindemoya arena might be further shifted should a bad frost or heavy snow occur, suggesting that a prudent course of action would be to utilize the Providence Bay arena until “we decide where we are going.”

When the Finance and Economic Development (FED) committee meeting was held August 20, the issue of the municipality’s aging arenas was once more on the agenda. Councillor Steve Shaffer informed council that he believed a procedural error had occurred regarding the motion to move the chiller to Providence Bay. He pointed out that the notification of the motion was that the chiller went to Providence Bay, but that the original motion said the chiller was for the Mindemoya arena.

Despite Councillor Derek Stephens’ assertion that the motion was in order, Mayor Richard Stephens disagreed. “It was a new resolution,” he said, “not an amended resolution. It has to be on the agenda.” 

Councillor Stephens rebutted that council often makes new motions when sitting.

Councillor Dale Scott agreed with the mayor, noting that the motion “did not come from committee, was not on the agenda and should go back to committee.”

CAO/Clerk Ruth Frawley expressed the town administration’s concern over getting the chiller in place. “You won’t have ice,” she said. But Councillor Scott reminded the committee that the arena in Mindemoya is still operable and Councillor Johnston added that things are “still operable in both arenas.”

Following the meeting, Mayor Stephens also downplayed any sense of urgency over the decision timeline. “We haven’t even got the chiller yet,” he said. “We have to get it before it can go anywhere. I won’t even start to get excited until we have it in hand, you can only deal with what you have.”

The challenge with replacing the chiller in Providence Bay and not utilizing the Mindemoya arena this year is that the ice surface in Providence Bay is smaller and likely not suitable for play by the upper year minor hockey teams, noted Councillor Shaffer following the meeting.

The Central Manitoulin Minor Hockey Association has yet to weigh into the debate, a fact that is of some surprise to Mayor Stephens. “I have been trying to reach out to them, but so far I have been unsuccessful,” he said.

Councillor Shaffer noted that, due to a stall at council on spending the $30,000 needed to repair the Mindemoya arena roof, “all indications are that the Mindemoya arena will not open for the 2019/20 hockey season,” this despite a recommendation to authorize the repairs forwarded by the property committee. “Council failed to adopt that recommendation,” said Councillor Shaffer.

“It is my hope by bringing this procedural error to light that this will give Central Manitoulin council pause for sober second thought,” said Councillor Shaffer. “To clarify, the Mindemoya arena does not require an immediate $1 million plus to bring it up to code. As things currently stand, by the year 2025 the building must be handicapped accessible, as do all municipal buildings. That is one reason a committee is studying our long term options.”

The current concern is complicated by a public works personnel recommendation that the chillers at both sites need to be replaced. “It’s a safety concern as much as anything,” said Councillor Shaffer. “Council made the decision to replace one chiller this year and the other next year.”

With the Mindemoya facility having the larger ice surface the original plan was to replace the Mindemoya chiller first.

Still there are a lot of unanswered questions about putting money into the Mindemoya structure, maintains Councillor Shaffer. “Will it last one year or five? Will the wall require repair if it shifts over the coming season?”

The debate was to continue at the September 2 (Tuesday) property committee meeting, where a report from the consultants on the repurposing of the Old School building is expected to be tabled.