Shulist says sell MV land to pay for arena ice surface

At the Jan.7th Council in Committee meeting, members of MV Council heard from Infrastructure Ontario regarding financing the Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre (PJYCC) rehabilitation project. The options included short-term construction loan, line of credit facility and long-term debenture of up to 30 years. The presentation came about after MV’s Treasurer, Amanda Hudder, had advised Council last December that the taxation impact of borrowing at least $1.5 million on a 25 or 30 year debenture could be an increase of 2.5 percent on ratepayers’ tax bills.

Council also reviewed the 24 communications from area residents who asked for their opinions to be taken into consideration. Of these, 12 letters could be described as coming from people with “vested interests” in continued use of the ice surface; five writers were involved with the Barry’s Bay and Area Minor Hockey Association, Bay Blades Sledge Hockey, and the Barry’s Bay Skating Club 2020-21. Only one writer was vehemently opposed to replacing the ice slab, although several more wanted expanded use of the building including seven letters from people who wanted to see more year-round recreational and fitness facilities. Some mentioned the needs of area seniors, along with the economic benefits of activities that bring visitors and attract young professionals and their families to relocate here.

What stands out is that MV Council received just 24 letters — representing 22 out of 3,205 households in MV. Even allowing for the organizations mentioned by correspondents and the fact that many (young) people skate in two or more organizations, the “public input” so far represents possibly up to 150 persons out of a population of around 4,100. At least seven said that Council should get more public input before making a decision.

Pointing out that the present Covid-related shutdown prevents a public meeting, Mayor Kim Love said, “We did call for the public input. We did get some public input.”

Council then deferred a final decision on the project until after the upcoming conferences of the Ontario Good Roads Association and the Rural Ontario Municipalities of Ontario in case new funding announcements were made. In the meantime it directed staff to prepare a staged tender for approval.

The ice surface came up for discussion again on Jan.19, this time to consider the cost of maintaining unused ice during the present shutdown. Only Councillor Ernie Peplinski voted against removing the ice immediately.

This discussion prompted Councillor David Shulist to suggest that Council consider selling the substantial undeveloped property the municipality owns near the Bark Lake dam. He said, “I brought this to the table at the start of this term and … even when I was mayor, and I never got any response to it. I think now the timing could be perfect. We have a piece of property at the Bark Lake dam…. Nobody has come to the table to say that there is a need for this land…. I will bring the motion at some point and then there’s going to be some action. [It] would read … deem the land at Bark Lake Dam surplus and that the money from the sale goes directly to the ice surface project.”

Surprisingly, the ensuing discussion revealed that the municipality is not in a position to immediately identify all the land it owns. Eventually CAO Suzanne Klatt said that staff could produce a simple list of all municipally-owned properties by next month, although further research would be required to determine why MV had acquired each of them before Council could determine which lands could be deemed surplus. Mayor Love and Klatt suggested that Council undertake this review on a municipality-wide basis (not merely to fund recreation) and determine potential costs of valuation and marketing.

Apparently municipally-owned lands are not included in its Asset Management Plan documents.

Plus ça changeplus c’est la même chose

On the subject of the arena, Barry’s Bay native Joshua Blank recently sent The Current a 1982 article from the Ottawa Citizen (below) suggesting that it “appears to bookend difficulties at the arena both at the start and (possibly) end of its life.” We contacted the author of the original piece, Ish Theilheimer, who said about the PJYCC, “No easy answers. Nothing can really pay the bills. MV so badly needs a community centre. There is no community space in town other than at the arena and that one, as you know, is so limited.”

2 Comments

  1. John & Beth Hildebrandt

    Dan Olshen – OMG – Your whole comment is EXACTLY how we feel – especially the following excerpt below from your writings, it also EXACTLY how we feel – THANK YOU SOOO MUCH!!!

    “The thesis of the above Para. Is that Rec Centers are not a zero-sum financial enterprise but rather a necessity for vibrant communities, and the ultimate derivatives are a healthier and more active and engaged community, and ultimately serve as a venue to help keep our youth away (24/7) from iPhones, Cannabis facilities, etc.”

    You are right in your thoughts about David Shulist who is a very strong advocate of the Arena, and also a very community minded individual.
    THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR STRONG SUPPORT!!!!

  2. Dan Olshen

    Kudos to “The Current “for highlighting this issue which piqued my interest as it is relevant to the future viability of the MV.
    One must realize or reminisce how the “Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre” has been the center of controversy previously as noted by the local erudite historian and author of several books dedicated to local history, Dr. Joshua Blank (previously from Wilno). It was an illuminated Council in the 70s with visionaries like Council Member “Tony Yantha” who stickhandled this infrastructure effort with many obstacles and goal posts in the way like Jack White and Bill Weatherbed of adjacent jurisdictions who would not contribute in-kind contributions even though the PJYCC is the primary locus of recreational activities for nearly 100% of their residents. Hopefully, Mayors Janice Visneski and Vic Bodnar of Hastings Highlands (HH) are more sober minded in this regard. In my estimation about 25% of the taxation revenue for HH comes from residents of Papineau Lake, Bangor Twsp., Bark and Kamaniskeg Lakes (60% in HH) which consider Barry’s Bay the central hub for their extra-curricular activities. However, I am unsure if Mayor Love has the skillsets or business acumen to enter into any serious collaboration with them and other potential partners if her previous history is any indicator of her resolve to solve any matters of a macroeconomic scale.
    Although I appreciate the suggestion by one of the visionary and forward-thinking council members i.e., David Shulist, his gesture should only be a remedy of last resort as selling off the “best back 40“to gain some interim finances is a foolhardy game. This Council does not seem to realize that our last precious asset in this area is our waterfront and unfortunately is willing to sell off shorelines and deem Madawaska River frontage non- commercial as in the Chippawa Shores lot liquidation decision on any whim or gesture. If the proposed sale of the waterfront tract on Bark Like is realized, there is a high probability it will be plotted into tracts like for a trailer park as one resident ludicrously suggested about 2 years ago as potential usage for this acreage. OMG: Do we ever need another trailer park in the MV to further blight our landscape.
    On another front, and as mentioned in an op-ed in another local news venue, facilities like the Paul Yakabuski Community Centre are not construed to be revenue neutral generators. The recent “Current” article by Brenda Strack tweaked my interest (as the secondary thrust of her commentary was the economic one due to the extended lockdown), and as she noted the big boxes are full of consumers (jammed packed to the rafters) during the lockdown but small businesses and other congruent facilities are closed. I observed about 900 cars (2 people per car) at the Kanata Costco (20,000 sq. ft. about 2 weeks ago and in parallax there were about 5 cars at the Kanata Community Centre. Ditto for the Nepean Sportsplex adjacent to the jam-packed Hunt Club Costco. The real winners are Costco, Walmart and of course Amazon as our local small businesses are submerged with several business casualties very imminent as Brenda alluded to in her article.
    The thesis of the above Para. Is that Rec Centers are not a zero-sum financial enterprise but rather a necessity for vibrant communities, and the ultimate derivatives are a healthier and more active and engaged community, and ultimately serve as a venue to help keep our youth away (24/7) from iPhones, Cannabis facilities, etc.
    I also believe we do not need a gross annual expenditure of over $1 million on OPP surveillance and other security or safety residues in the very safe MV, and cost- savings should be found in these expenditure columns by a vibrant and responsible council and their beaurocracy. Hopefully, we have an engaged community and Council and can reduce the debenture amount to maintain this mega important facility in the MV. I for one would be willing to pay a nominal amount of tax increase to have the privilege of utilizing and knowing that we have a facility like the Paul J. Yakabuski Comm Centre in the MV locale which will provide manifold dividends in the future.

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