by Tristan Turner
About 40 people from Morinville and surrounding areas attended Council’s Sept. 8th meeting to express concerns about the rec centre project. Alanna Hnatiw, one of the members of the Sturgeon Recreational Facility Citizen Group, presented to Council on their behalf.
Hnatiw emphasized the group’s belief that the project must be regional, and demanded that Council form regional partnerships with Sturgeon County or other regional municipalities within the next 60 days. In this they hope the Town would achieve regional partnerships similar to those seen in Stony Plain, Leduc and Athabasca rec facility projects. Further, they requested that a pool and field house be constructed as part of the project. The group believes that this will save maintenance and building costs compared to building multiple facilities across the region.
The group and Hnatiw felt that community engagement in the rec centre project was not adequate, citing specifically that she felt that “people feel that decisions are made [by Council] regardless of their input.” Hnatiw also claimed that “apathy is rampant” in the community regarding the project. The group believe that the steering committee for the rec centre should be expanded to include members of the public, and that Council should hold a special meeting shortly to hear back about the architect and design RFP from Administration.
Mayor Holmes was the first to responded to Hnatiw after the presentation.
“Your group did come and meet with me last week, and we went through this information,” she said. “It was at that time that I told you the steering committee would be expanding to have more members, that we would be meeting with Sturgeon County within the next 60 days, and that we had just met with them, and that we were calling a special meeting of Council just before committee of the whole to deal with the RFP process. Some of the things you’re saying are things that I’ve shared with you at that meeting.”
Hnatiw responded by saying that this wasn’t completely satisfying. She stressed the need for a formal partnership with the County quickly.
“I understand that it’s your town’s project, and I understand you want to stay in a position of control and direction,” she said. “But with the needs assessment that was done in 2013 for the region and the timing of the arena needing to be replaced and your forethought in choosing the location; it just seems like a really excellent fit to make a formal partnership and move forward quickly.”
Holmes said the citizen’s group would get no disagreement from Council on that front, citing that the Town had applied for a regional cooperation grant in 2014 and had been working with the County ever since. “We’re setting up the process for how we will be developing the partnership with Sturgeon County, and we’ve already had our first meeting,” Holmes countered.
Councillor Stephen Dafoe followed up on the Mayor’s comments. “There is nobody [on Council] who does not want to sit down with all of our regional partners,” Dafoe said, adding his belief Council and Administration had let the public down on getting info out. “If there is any criticism that can be levelled at us, it is that as a Council… we could have done a better job in laying out some of the information as to where we were at. For that, personally, I apologize to all of you here. I hope that in the future, we’re going to do a better job of keeping you in the loop.”
Dafoe also told the group Council had been in contact with local MLA Glenn van Dijken and that van Dijken had said he is keeping his ear to the ground for all funding opportunities that may be available for the project.
Two related motions were made during the later portion of the meeting.
Councillor Dafoe moved to expand the steering committee to include at minimum one member of each of the seven stakeholder groups Council has previously met with. That motion passed unanimously, but just who those members will be will not be determined until the next stakeholder meeting.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein moved to host a meal with regional partners, including Alexander First Nation, as well as local stakeholders to get everyone on the same page with the project.
Mayor Holmes will call a special meeting of Council for Sept. 15 to move ahead on choosing an Architectural firm, a decision that was deferred from the original Sept. 8 target.