Rec open house offers lots of answers, just none on land

Residents line up to ask Council their questions about the proposed arena / recreation centre project during an open house held at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Dec. 11. Below: Residents sign up for a number of project stakeholder groups.

– Lucie Roy Photos

by Colin Smith
with files from Tristan Turner and Lucie Roy

open house2Morinville and area residents who hoped to find out the location of the proposed new regional multi-use recreation centre at a December 11 open house were disappointed.

However Mayor Lisa Holmes did inform the almost 100 people in attendance at the event that an announcement can be expected shortly, with only a few details left to be settled before it is made.

“We’ve been working for the past seven months to get to this point,” she said. “We have taken 9 1/2 of 10 steps. We are almost there.” Holmes did disclose that the Town has signed a conditional agreement to purchase a 60+ acre site. Those conditions have to be lifted by the end of January.

The sum of $13.75 million has been allotted for the facility in the proposed 2015 budget, which is awaiting third reading and approval by Town Council. However that figure is considered merely a starting point, with total costs depending on the type of facility and whether any partnerships can help offset the costs.

At the open house Mayor Holmes and representatives of site consultants AODBT provided a recap of the steps in the lengthy planning process that led to the decision to replace the aged Ray MacDonald Centre and replace it with a regional multi-use recreation centre.

These include studies, a previous open house, surveys, Rotary Club open houses and a visit by councillors to two recreation facilities in Saskatchewan as well as individual Councillor visits to other facilities.

Those in attendance were presented with three scenarios to consider as the project goes into its next phase, ranging from essentially replacing the current arena, through adding additional amenities and commercial space, to constructing two arenas with additional amenities.

To advance the process, six stakeholder groups will begin meeting in January to give all Morinville and area residents a chance to help determine what the rec centre should be. “What is it going to include?” said Holmes. “How can we plan for a facility now that will meet Morinville’s needs in 30 years?”

Each group will be chaired by a member of Council. They are Political Body, Mayor Lisa Holmes; Public Institutions, Councillor Nicole Boutestein; General Public for Morinville residents and those within the region, Councillor Brennan Fitzgerald; Community Organizations, Councillor Barry Turner; Businesses and Business Organizations, Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe; Current Arena User Groups, Councillor Gord Putnam; Other Sports Groups, Councillor Rob Ladouceur.

Requests for proposals will be put out for a coordinator to help facilitate the process and organize all the information coming in, as well as for an architectural engineer to design the facility.

The Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce and the local Rotary club released an open letter earlier this month expressing concerns about the handling of the rec centre project. The letter addressed to the Mayor and Council asked a number of questions and called for a more open consultation process.

“To this point many feel as though they have been left on the outside and have only been invited to “participate” in decisions that have already been made,” it stated.

Simon Boersma, president of the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce, attended the open house and was pleased with what he learned there and through a Frequently Asked Questions section put up recently on the Town website.

“I am happy to see an open process,” he said. “I’ve seen stuff on the website we did not find before. I’m now able to get some of the information I was looking for.”

Boersma indicated he was happy to see that a large parcel of land was being considered.

“That was one of our biggest concerns,” he said. “It will accommodate further growth in the business sector. That’s important. It will also help with payment of some of those taxes down the road.”

“I’m glad to see partnerships,” Boersma added.

The partnership idea also appeals to Noreen Radford of the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Board. She is encouraged by the opportunity the site may offer as a location for construction of the new K-6 school the district recently announced by the provincial government.

“I was very pleased to hear 60 acres,” Radford said. “I think there’s great potential. And the fact that there’s time to develop. You can do it in stages. I love that part.”
Now the board will have to see where the site is and what the plans are for the facility.

“How will this benefit us?” she asked. “We need to wait and see where the site is and what are the facilities. Then we go back to the board and have out conversation.”
The board is currently looking at two possible school sites. “We want to see what meets our residents’ needs.”

Mayor Holmes had previously pointed out that as the two sites currently under consideration come at no cost to the Town, serious thought would have to be given to using land it had paid for for a school site.

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