by Calli Stromner
A new recreation complex in Morinville is clearly on a lot of minds. From multiple Letters to the Editor to repeated public presentations at bi-weekly Council meetings to ongoing dialogue on Facebook… it seems everyone knows how and where to build it, how to equip it and who ought to pay for it.
With so much expert advice bombarding Council and Administration, it comes as a shock to many of these “concerned citizens” that a decision hasn’t been made yet. The increasing impatience to have an architectural concept drawing upon which to gaze has prompted the “spokespeople” of some of these citizen groups to imply that Council is being secretive, duplicitous and borderline unethical. Or they’re being duped by a corrupt and/or incompetent Administration.
Just a couple of months ago, many of these same concerned citizens criticized Council for acting too hastily when faced with a decision of fixing the dying Ray McDonald Arena or replacing it. “Slow down and take the time to make the right decision,” they said. Council heeded the advice and has been in the process of gathering information, meeting with potential partners, and exploring ideas and concepts. And that’s a good thing.
However the clouds are not a place Council should remain for too much longer. Before the engineers and architects start drawing up blueprints, Administration and Council need to take a long look in the mirror and determine if the municipality has the right operating procedures, policy frameworks and financial commitments in place not just to build the facility, but maintain and operate it into the future.
If future success can be predicted by past performance, one can imagine that this project may see some significant challenges. Looking at this future recreation facility through the lens of another recent capital project reveals more questions that require answers.
Will debenture payments for the future recreation facility also come primarily from photo enforcement revenues? What happens if drivers stop behaving badly and the money dries up? How will the current photo enforcement program pay for two capital debentures simultaneously – will speed thresholds be lowered to generate more tickets?
How can the Town accurately reflect what potential municipal cost-sharing arrangements look like when they can’t even determine the actual cost of their own community programming?
Is it realistic to expect that the Town and the County will commit to a multi-year, multi-million dollar joint venture recreation facility when the two Councils have only been talking to each other for six months?
If nothing else, these questions should spark other questions that can help determine if the community’s call for a full recreation complex is a true need or something that a few special interest groups want.