Council discusses project at Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre (pictured above)
At the Council in Committee meeting held on December 1, Madawaska Valley Council reviewed the Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre Structural Adequacy Review and staff report. While the engineers’ survey did not reveal any additional major problems, it added the cost of short term maintenance jobs to the already-sizeable renovation project. Councillor Mark Willmer estimated the total cost at around $1.5 million, two-thirds of which would cover replacing the aged ice slab. Against this total will be $100,000 in COVID safety funds coming to MV as reported by Recreation and Community Development Coordinator Stephanie Plebon.
Councillor Ernie Peplinski used the arena project costs discussion as an opportunity to harangue Plebon, first about spending a few hundred dollars last spring to purchase plexiglass sheets for COVID protection for staff. After hearing her explanation, Peplinski then turned to blaming her for failing to generate revenue by not renting out the upstairs lounge for licensed events, but Willmer stepped in – he had bigger fish to fry and directed the discussion back to the $1.5 million rehabilitation project. He sealed the deal by telling Peplinski that “holding licensed events would not look good for the municipality at this [COVID] time.”
When Willmer said MV should plan to set aside reserves for future arena maintenance unlike previous councils, Peplinski accused him of attacking the previous council for not creating sufficient reserves. Willmer denied it, insisting, “We’re in a situation where we need a minimum of $1.5 million now. We don’t have it. And we have to make sure we start developing good practices for the future of that arena.” This provoked Peplinski to protest, “This council, just like especially the last council, was very, very instrumental in looking at all expenses and cutting back on areas that was considered boondoggles.… Because as long as I’m on the council and others think likewise we cannot keep sticking it to the taxpayer.” Peplinski did not enlighten viewers by identifying what “boondoggles” he was referring to, perhaps because his own fingerprints might well have been on them.
Willmer again responded to Peplinski saying, “I agree that we have to be very fiscally prudent and that’s why we are trying to have a discussion today.… All I am saying is this council has to avoid some of the issues from the past where no money was put aside into a reserve. Simple as that.”
Mayor Kim Love agreed the report was helpful and asked that staff determine which small repairs could be done in-house and establish a timetable to achieve them. She further agreed with Willmer that the municipality needed to borrow the money to replace the ice slab and renovate the PJYCC now. She also requested staff to plot a year-by-year timeline for the bigger maintenance items so future councils would see clearly what to budget for, saying, “Because otherwise we’ll be the council that’s left holding the bag when the ice goes out. I don’t want to be in that position.”
During the exchanges between Peplinski and Willmer, in a move reminiscent of times when he would ostentatiously swivel his chair and turn his back to the council table and look out of the window during meetings of the previous council, Councillor Carl Bromwich suddenly disappeared from the YouTube meeting. (He rejoined the meeting later after Council returned from a closed session.)
Willmer asked for any other comments, specifically from Peplinski, who this time remained silent. Council therefore directed staff to bring to the Dec.16 meeting an analysis of the jobs that could be done in-house, a 20-year timeline for ongoing maintenance, and the estimated costs of borrowing to complete the rehabilitation project. Love said the public could provide any input prior to that meeting. When CAO Suzanne Klatt read out the Recommendation, Love, Shulist and Willmer voted in favour of it, but Peplinski did not.
Other items discussed by MV Council on Dec.1
Paugh Lake Road construction
Operations Manager Hilary Kutchkoskie told Council that all the paving was complete and there were just a few items to finish up next spring.
Physician recruitment committee to end
Mayor Love reported that the Joint Municipal Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee (JMPRRC) — comprised of representatives from MV plus neighbouring municipalities — recommends that no further financial contributions be made towards physician recruitment in 2021, that no Physician Recruiter will be hired and that as of December 31, 2021 the JMPRRC will be dissolved.
Madawaska Valley’s twin town, Lipusz, has sent an icon to be presented to St. Mary’s Church in Wilno. Councillors Shulist and Bromwich will arrange a COVID-safe presentation, and the municipality will send formal thanks and Christmas greetings to Lipusz.
Council passed several By-Laws, including:
- Interim Control By-Law that prohibits cultivation of cannabis in the municipality for one year during which MV will study appropriate land use planning issues.
- An agreement with Paymentus so that MV can accept payments for water and tax bills electronically from ratepayers (even foreign residents) using various means.
- Terms of Reference were adopted by By-Law for the Combermere Recreation Committee, the Palmer Rapids and Area Lions Club, the Madawaska Valley Friendship Club.
Mutual aid agreement
Council reviewed a draft agreement with abutting municipalities for mutual aid during emergencies. An amended agreement will come back to Council at a future date.
CAO Suzanne Klatt read a statement from solicitors Templeman Menninga that “The parties to this action have reached a settlement in principle, which has not yet been approved by the Court. Once it has been and the matter is finalized, the Township will make a further statement.” As previously reported by The Current, the court case began in 2014 and refers to construction completed back in 2009. Love said, “It would be wonderful to tick a box and complete one item.”