By Mike Williscraft
West Lincoln’s Public Works Committee gave the green light to the controversial $23.6 million multi-use recreation facility Tuesday night after nearly six hours of comment and debate.
The debate centred for months not on whether or not a replacement for the current Smithville arena was needed, but the cost, which jumped nearly $10 million from a proposal defeated about a year ago.
About 120 were in the gallery which flowed into town hall’s lobby.
Despite a steady stream of concerns from the public about cost, council approved an RFP for a $23.2 million arena, library, splash pad, skateboard park and more. Some facets never approved by council when it chose Plan B (the less expensive of two options presented) in October 2017.
While Coun. Dave Bylsma was the only detractor for months, Coun. Mike Rehner also opposed the project Tuesday after noting MPAC’s recent hike in agriculture property assessments translates into 31 per cent tax increases when including the MURS impact.
Coun. Joann Chechalk appeared to be on the fence and wanted to considering phasing in components but was told by CAO Chris Carter this was not possible.
Carter said Tuesday council voted in October to proceed with an RFP process for a complete build. This was in direct conflict with his answer to Chechalk’s questions at the Feb. 21 Public Works meeting.
“We will have the opportunity to cancel, eliminate aspects or phase in when the RFP comes back?” Chechalk asked in February.
“Yes,” said Carter.
But with committee members not seeing an option to phase and wanting the proposal to progress in some manner, Chechalk opted to support the project as it was presented. Mayor Doug Joyner, Councillors Terry Bell, Jason Trombetta and Cheryl Ganann also voted in favour.