Debate on Central Manitoulin arenas’ fates resurfaces

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CENTRAL MANITOULIN—The fate of the Providence Bay arena arose once again during debate on a motion to appoint members to the Central Manitoulin Recreation Infrastructure Committee (CMRIC). While there was no opposition expressed in relation to the appointments per se, debate centred on the mandate and terms of reference for the committee going forward.

The motion from the property committee “that we recommend to council to appoint Larry Karn, Wayne Legge, Crystal Lentir, Dale Scott and Adam Smith to the Central Manitoulin Recreation Infrastructure Committee” was eventually moved by Councillor Al Tribinevicius and seconded by Councillor Dale Scott and passed during a recorded vote. Voting for the motion were Councillors Angela Johnston, Scott, Tribinevicius and Mayor Richard Stephens, while Councillors Steve Shaffer, Rose Diebolt and Derek Stephens opposed the motion.

Debate at the council table did not centre on the appointees, rather on whether the committee should be provided clear direction from council on what they should be concentrating on.

Mayor Stephens said that he was in favour of providing the previous committee’s terms of reference to the new committee to use as a template. “Let the committee members themselves decide what they would like the terms of reference and mandate will be,” he suggested.

Following the debate on the first motion to appoint members to the committee, a second motion was prepared by Councillor Johnston providing terms of reference and mandate direction to the committee, which then reignited the debate. At this point Councillor Scott indicated his concern that the vote to even have the committee at all was so close.

Councillor Shaffer indicated that he too was concerned about the division on council and suggested that the committee report directly to council, rather than through the property committee as had been previously the case.

Councillor Angela Johnston was adamant that the new committee should be clearly directed to focus on “the repair, renovation or replacement of the Mindemoya arena” as a first priority, but did not rule out the committee looking at other aspects of the municipality’s recreational infrastructure.

“I just don’t want to see the committee wasting time on revisiting decisions that have already been made,” she said.

Councillor Diebolt was equally adamant that the committee focus on a single arena for the municipality and that the arena be located in Mindemoya. She pointed out that Mindemoya is basically the “downtown” of the municipality where the bank, grocery store and other main stores and services could be found and that the other wards were essentially “bedroom communities.”

Mayor Stephens noted that Mindemoya had sewer and water, where the other communities did not.

Councillor Stephens, a strong proponent of the previous multi-use centre concept that in the end failed to garner provincial funding support, suggested that the Mindemoya arena is dominated by minor hockey and that the second ice surface allowed for other user groups, sportsman hockey, figure skating and other groups to book the ice at a reasonable time slot.

“Lots of communities have two arenas,” he said.

Councillor Tribinevicius said that he was also concerned about focusing so closely on the arenas that the other recreational facilities were not considered. “Remember, it isn’t just about hockey,” he said, adding that the total focus on buildings could miss such things as ball fields and parks.

In the end, the motion “That council directs the CMRIC to use the terms of reference of the previous Central Manitoulin Recreation Centre Committee as a template to develop its own terms of reference for consideration of council, and further that the first objective of the CMRIC is to provide options for the repair, renovation or replacement of the Mindemoya arena, which is in line with the final recommendations of the 2019 Recreation Centre Feasibility Report, and further that the CMRIC will report directly to council” was moved by Councillor Johnston and seconded by Councillor Shaffer. A recorded vote called for by Mayor Stephens saw all councillors vote in favour except Councillor Stephens.