Overflowing council chambers packed with residents raising concerns over arenas issue

MINDEMOYA – Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens, who says he likes to see residents at council meetings, must have been delighted September 9 to see an overflowing chamber.

The occasion was a property committee meeting and people were there to voice their concerns regarding the opening of the municipality’s two arenas.

This committee had recommended two motions to council which were to accept the structural inspection report from Tulloch Engineering for the Mindemoya arena and to proceed with the tendering process for the planned repairs at an estimated cost of $30,000 and to direct the CAO/Clerk to proceed with the installation of the newly purchased chiller at that arena. Both motions failed at the August 22 council meeting.

There were several delegates at this meeting and the first person to speak was T.J. McDermid, the president of the Mindemoya Minor Hockey Association (MMHA).

“MMHA,” said Mr. McDermid, “supports the $30,000 expenditure to fix the Mindemoya arena, based on our review of the engineer’s report, which states that the building should be reinspected in 2024 and to continue operating and maintaining the facility until such time that council has an approved plan and/or timeline in place to either build a new complex or renovate the existing facility to meet the growing needs for minor hockey, the community and government initiatives for accessibility. We want all Thunder hockey under the same roof.” 

Mr. McDermid went on to say that MMHA was not being informed of major decisions regarding the arenas even though they were told they would be. He also rejected an MMHA temporary move to the Providence Bay arena as the association felt that this may become permanent or extended. He also expressed the frustration of the organization concerning council’s tardiness in not dealing with this issue sooner as hockey season is about to begin. 

“We request the property committee to revisit the motion and request a plan and a time so we can properly prepare and will support and work with council to ensure there is hockey in Mindemoya for years to come,” said Mr. McDermid.

Janet Anning was also a delegate speaking on behalf of Manitoulin Special Olympics (MSO). She told council that she has been involved with the association since 2006 and has helped to organize an MSO softball tournament for 11 years. Ms. Anning was very concerned with the lack of access for the activities. They had used the Mindemoya community hall and washrooms at one time but were told two days before a tournament that the lift to access the upper floor was broken. She went to the municipal office for assistance and was handed a piece of paper that told her to go to a municipal meeting.

She said she was upset that initially she was not given any help, even though the tournament with all the added benefits to Central Manitoulin had been going on for years. She then did receive a letter that the lift may not be fixed and so planned on using the arena for the 250 kids that would be attending. Ms. Anning was upset that there is only one outside portable bathroom, saying, “The ballfields are wonderful, but our council has done nothing to make things accessible or (to indicate) what they will do in the future. There will probably be 300 athletes next year.” 

Ms. Anning went on to talk about this imposed handicap on the seniors of the municipality. “How many can’t use the hall for events—to play euchre? The hall is supposed to be a warming station. Handicapped people have to have fully accessible places. I need some answers. I would like to put out a challenge to our mayor and some councillors to act like a handicapped person for a day and see what it’s like.”

At this juncture, Councillor Derek Stephens said, “I wasn’t aware that there aren’t outside facilities.”
Councillor Dale Scott told Ms. Anning that it will cost “$250,000 to make the building accessible,” but added, “you’re right, a sector of our society is vulnerable.”

Larry Karn also spoke regarding the arenas on behalf of the Hackers/Lakers and he focussed on the engineer’s report, saying, “there is nothing that indicates the building is not usable, provided the repairs are done to the ice resurfacing room. The report does not determine a cause for the west wall bowing as it could be from excess snow or the removal of that snow. Did the damage occur just last winter or was it gradual? If it occurred last winter from excess snow, why is it not covered under the building insurance policy? If it was gradual, then more care should be taken in the removal of snow to prevent a further increase in wall movement and roof damage. If the repairs are not done and regular maintenance completed, then the building will most definitely deteriorate to the point of not usable in summer or winter.”

“If the building is not open for hockey this year or in the following years, there will be a decrease in local winter traffic which the local businesses have come to count on,” said Mr. Karn. “The expectation that the other arena can accommodate all the users from the Mindemoya arena is not feasible.” 

Councillor Steve Shaffer spoke in favour of opening the Mindemoya arena. He said that although there are deficiencies, the arena is the most used year-round municipal building.

“I am here to support the youth of our community,” he said. “If it were not for some great volunteers and organizations within our community, our youth would have very little. Let me focus on this one issue with facts. An engineering report made 12 recommendations. If these repairs and inspections are completed within six months, the building should be re-inspected in the year 2024. Spending the $30,000 now will perhaps buy us time to be further along in our repair/replacement options. It is way too early to be withdrawing services from our community members for some future plan with so many yet unanswered questions. We must make every reasonable effort to provide a service to our ratepayers and particularly our youth.”

Councillor Shaffer also spoke of the outstanding efforts of the now-defunct Mindemoya Arena Advisory Steering Committee (MAASC) in raising, and turning over to the municipality, $26,000 to be used in the future for the arena and found it sad and disappointing that it was suggested that this money be used for repairs, something that is the responsibility of the municipality.

In then discussing the chiller need for both arenas, Councillor Dale Scott stated that since “the two items are so close, you have to do the two of them together,” to which Councillor Derek Stephens said, “there is already a motion that failed.” 

“I don’t think it is really a failed motion because it wasn’t procedurally done properly,” said Councillor Shaffer.

Councillor Stephens said, “Mr. Shaffer, you were not at the meeting. You don’t get to vote. It was a motion that was accepted by council and a majority of council.”

In the end, a recommendation was made that council proceed immediately with repairs to the J.H. Burt Arena as recommended by the Tulloch engineering inspection report of $30,000.