Delay gives residents time to have input
At the final Madawaska Valley Council meeting of the year on Dec.16, Council again debated the rehabilitation of the Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre (PJYCC). After discussing the matter for a further hour and a quarter, Council decided to defer its decision to the Council in Committee meeting on Jan.7 2021. This deferral allows Council to receive advice from Infrastructure Ontario about possible municipal funding and borrowing options; and it also gives more residents the opportunity to consider PJYCC over the holidays and write in with their views. Above PJYCC entrance. photo AAR Structural Adequacy Review Report
At its meeting on Dec. 1st, Council received details of the AAR Structural Adequacy Review and a list of estimated costs to address elements that had worn out during PJYCC’s existence. Chief among the items is the ice surface (estimated minimum replacement cost of $1.46 million); and an upgrade to the dressing rooms, showers, and washrooms (estimated at a further $300,000). Stephanie Plebon, MV Recreation and Community Development Coordinator, told Council the structural review also revealed numerous repairs required over the next few years. Mayor Kim Love said that because sufficient amounts were not set aside in reserves during the 40 years since construction of the building, there is nowhere near enough money to pay for repairs let alone replacement without borrowing. This upset Councillor Ernie Peplinski who said he was opposed to borrowing. After further debate Township staff were directed to provide more information to allow Council to make a decision at the Dec.16 meeting.
Decision deferred until Jan 7th
On Dec.16 (the videos are available on YouTube) Council again canvassed the issues, repeating much of what had been previously discussed, but eventually agreeing to put off the decision again, this time to Jan.7. Four members were eager to spend the engineering fee to prepare a tender so that MV would be “shovel-ready.” Peplinski disagreed, saying it was “putting the cart before the horse” and could give the public the impression of “a done deal.”
The Dec.15 announcement (on the day before MV Council met) that the Ontario Winter Games in March 2022 would be held in Renfrew County further complicated things. Plebon told Council that she had been advised MV could be considered as a venue for speed skating. While the Games present a great opportunity for County residents and businesses, Councillor Mark Willmer pointed out there were many other ice arenas in the County that had much more modern facilities to host an event than the PJYCC with its 35-year-old dressing rooms.
Above PJYCC ice surface. photo AAR Structural Adequacy Review Report
Plebon also provided Council with a timeline of work to be done including cost estimates and which report (Structural Adequacy Review or Building Condition Assessment) recommended each expenditure. She provided this on a single spreadsheet and also gave them a list of the smaller jobs that MV staff could do themselves. (click HERE to view the two-page report) She pointed out that the engineering work for the tender to become “shovel-ready” would take about six weeks so it needed to begin in January if construction was to take place between April and October 2021.
So that Council could decide about borrowing money for the project, MV Treasurer Amanda Hudder reported on the costs of two types of debentures (serial and amortized) for two different amounts ($1.5 million and $3 million) over two different terms (20 and 25 years). She said the $1.5 million scenario would cover the minimum amount needed, and knowing the cost of borrowing $3 million would help Council determine how to finance the additional items (including the kitchen upgrade).
Grant funding for the project was again discussed. Mayor Love pointed out that there is a municipal contribution whenever grant monies are received, so the PJYCC project will always have an impact on taxpayers no matter what Council decides. Hudder explained that the administrative and engineering costs to become “shovel-ready” could be rolled into that municipal contribution, but that no construction could begin until a grant was approved. Plebon said that because it could be used to pay for an entire component rather than just a percentage of a project, she suggested the COVID money of up to $100,000 mentioned at the Dec.1 meeting be applied towards the cost of the dehumidifiers.
The Dec.16 agenda had been amended to include three communications from residents about PJYCC. Council agreed to defer discussion of those until the Jan.7 meeting so that all community input could be reviewed together. At one point, Mayor Love said she could not comprehend why members of the public did not understand that the money needed to be spent as the condition of PJYCC had been debated many times at the Council table over the past two councils. By the end of the discussion she said, “This will be the most informed decision that a council has ever made when it is finally made — whatever it looks like.”
Recommendations approved by Council
CAO/Clerk Suzanne Klatt was asked to split her draft recommendation into two parts so that Council could vote on the tender portion separately. Both recommendations were carried by recorded votes:
The first recommendation, which received unaminous support, was that Council hear from Infrastructure Ontario on Jan.7 and give the public time to write in with their views before that meeting. It also directed staff to arrange an online public meeting during February to answer questions from members of the public.
The second recommendation was carried by four votes to one, opposed only by Peplinski. It directed staff to proceed with being shovel-ready by retaining the engineering firm to draft a tender document using a phased-in approach that prioritizes the ice slab replacement and associated components based on the estimated $1.46 million; and that additional components could form part of the tender as phased-in appendices to the tender. The costs of proceeding with the tender would be taken from existing reserves.
No discussion of other amenities
The estimates and plans considered by Council would only update what is in the PJYCC now; included in those are accessibility features such as wheelchair seating for spectators and boards suitable for sledge hockey. That means the “new” PJYCC would replicate the same functions it offers now — without any additional fitness or recreational functions to satisfy other community needs. Therefore those residents who asked for a community hub, running track, swimming pool or other fitness facilities during the strategic plan public meeting in November 2019 are so far being ignored in these discussions and debates.