Letter: Hockey arena or regional recreation facility – SO many questions – so little time!

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I would like to thank our Council for the Open House held on April 28th. It was good to see more people attending this and sharing their views. Also, I would like to thank the group who prepared the Feasibility Study as this document actually included nasty topics such as – ‘capital costs’; ‘operating costs’; ‘revenue generation’ ‘cost overruns or deficits’ and not just the community wants and desires.. As I sat through this open house, three words kept coming to my mind – and they are “quiver”, “shiver”, and “shake” (sounds like a rock and roll song doesn’t it?)
The “quivers” come from the excitement surrounding the new recreational facility; what that might consist of and exactly where it might be located. I noticed the enthusiasm when I sat through the very excellent Open House and watched those who were listening so attentively and nodding their heads with interest. For me, the “quivers” comes from the unknown factors surrounding the project.

Once the quivers stop, one must return to reality. Some of the questions posed by many at the Open House were along the lines of: “Who are the potential partners?”; “Where are the potential sites?”; “Have you had any sponsors come forward and who are they?” and “Do you have guaranteed funding from the Provincial or Federal Governments and if yes, how much?” Unfortunately, for all of these questions the answer was the same – “Oh we can’t talk about that right now!” We heard Council basically say “Trust us… the sponsors, the partnerships and government grants will come”. I think back to when the Cultural Centre was being talked about and we heard the usual “trust us” statement. We are still paying for a facility that is losing vast amounts of money every year (covered off by our tax dollars). The capital debt is still being paid down by, yes, revenue from Photo Radar. I also remember back when the town office renovations were being discussed and again we heard the usual “trust us”. I also remember the huge cost overrun which that particular project generated and we still don’t know really what happened!

One could see the “shivers” of anticipation when talking about whether to include one swimming pool or two, or one ice surface or two in the new facility! For me the “shivers” are shivers of fear. Not only is there a HUGE capital cost associated with building this facility (that we as taxpayers will have to somehow pay), there is the reality of that other component to the project which many tend to downplay (or even neglect). I’m speaking of the ONGOING OPERATING COSTS. The Feasibility Study mentioned an approximate ANNUAL deficit of some $800,000.00 – for one swimming pool! This alone makes me shiver!

Year after year, Operating Costs have increased substantially more than the Cost of Living. Morinville’s 2014 Budget projects the following operating deficits, due to expenditures being higher than revenues collected: 2014 – $368,247.00; 2015 – $369,799.00 and 2016 – $377,196.00. I realize these are estimates which could go down or UP. But how can our Council ask the residents to take on an ADDITIONAL operating deficit of upwards of $800,000.00 per year (depending on what components are included in any new facility)?

Ah yes, now we come to the “shakes”. I would ask that everyone, from the Mayor, Councillors and the residents of Morinville, take the time to “shake” your head and ask some really hard questions – questions which MUST be answered BEFORE we rush down the road to a new Regional Recreation facility.

To the Mayor and Councillors please do not try to sell us a Cadillac based on the “HOPES” of sponsors coming forward or “POTENTIAL” partnerships. Please don’t say “Trust Us”! Look closely at your EXISTING ongoing projected operational deficits and ensure there is room to assume even more.

To the Residents and Taxpayers of this town – my question to you is how much more per year are you willing to pay in property taxes, IF NO sponsors or partnerships develop? Remember, no matter what funding we MAY get from the Provincial or Federal Governments – it is not free as we pay taxes to them also.

Thank you for the opportunity to express my views.

Linda Lyons

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