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Two steps back to move forward

West Lincoln Community Centre

By Mike Williscraft

It took two-and-a-half hours of meetings but as the clock clicked by to 9 p.m., Mayor Doug Joyner summed up the highly contentious proposed West Lincoln community centre issue.

“Let’s get people involved. Let’s move on,” said Joyner after a lengthy motion to restart the public input session regarding the future direction for a multi-use facility to replace the four-decade-old Smithville Arena.

The number of residents who addressed West Lincoln’s Public Works/Recreation Services Committee hit double digits.

Some drew cheers. Some drew jeers.

Cheryl Ganann of the West Lincoln Library Board made it clear her organization wants to be considered if a new project moves forward.

“If it is about to happen, we want to be there,” said Ganann.

Residents in support of a rebuild rhymed off countless examples why a renovation is not an option. All agreed status quo is not an option as well.

Ongoing issues with melting ice on the rink, tiny and too few change rooms, lack of accessibility for the second floor hall, lack of multiple rooms for varied uses and a host of other issues were brought up.

While mostly amicable, the discussion was contentious.

After one speaker, when considerably over the alloted five-minutes maximum, talked through thumping whacks of PWRS chair Dave Bylsma’s gavel, speaker Shauna Boyle told the committee to have more respect and “don’t be rude”.

She went on to say the community centre is the heart of the township and “doctors don’t put Band Aids on hearts.”

She also chided committee members who said they didn’t know enough about the topic to speak to it when the issue arose at the April committee meeting.

“There was no discussion, no seconder. Why? It was a campaign issue. You should have known all about it. Was it personal against the mayor? That should not be an issue. This is a need, not a want.”

On the topic of why nobody would second the motion to proceed with a community centre rebuild, several councillors offered comment.

Coun. Joann Chechalk said, “there was not enough information.”

Coun. Alex Micallef, who noted he voted in favour of the complex as a member of the previous township council, said, “I know what I heard at the door,” during the election run last fall. He summarized his points by saying the proposal in front of them did not include input from user groups and he could not now support a facility built “on the taxpayers’ backs”.

Coun. Jason Trombetta said he was “not sure, not familiar” with whether or not the business community and government sources had been approached for possible funding of the project.

A key part of Chechalk’s motion to “take two steps back” by going to public consultation et al was that the cost of any new project should be 50 per cent covered by fundraising.

“I’m for raising money and getting money from the business community. I hope the business people, some who are in the gallery tonight, will spend their money here instead of taking it elsewhere.”

Coun. Terry Bell said he took a lot of calls and emails criticizing him for not getting the motion on the floor for discussion in April.

“I was never in favour of it. That has not been a secret,” said Bell, who noted a foundation document on which the push for a new facility was based stated the total number of residents who had input into the process was only 61 residents.

With this new round of community input, Bell said he wants to reach “all four corners” of the township for input whether it be at public meetings or at booths planned for Poultryfest and West Niagara Fall Fair.

“I want a new community centre, just not the one that was proposed.” Bell said.

Mayor Doug Joyner, who has been the main driver of the new facility drive, chose his words

“If council wishes to take a couple of steps back to go forward, I’m ok with that,” said Joyner, who noted that most of research requested in Chechalk’s motion has already been produced. He cited costs of other community’s new arenas and the fact all the communities stakeholders were approached in preparation for the initial proposal.

The community unanimously approved the motion to reload the process with an October 2015 deadline set for
making a decision.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Chechalk.

“We could not proceed with funding option that was purely on the tax base. Now, if we come back with a plan costing $12
million or $20 million if we decide to go bigger, we’ll know we can do it because we planned it. The initial plan had no library, no seniors space, no FORT. We don’t want to just replace the old.”

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