Public meeting conversations.
Scott Buffam, chairman of Renfrew's second ice surface committee, speaks to recreation management consultant Jim Frittenberg (right) after the Dec. 11 public meeting.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
Tuesday night’s two-hour public meeting wasn’t time for Renfrew residents to voice their opinions, but to hear what the capital costs and likely operating costs will be for a proposed second ice pad and swimming pool.
As echoed in the Nov. 28 workshop in which recreation management consultant John Frittenberg also outlined the capital costs and anticipated operational costs, Mayor Bill Ringrose said the Town of Renfrew will be challenged to pay for its portion of the operating costs. That would amount to about $4 million, if $2 million can be raised by the aquatic committee and second ice pad group.
However, it was also made clear that if the facility is pursued, construction will happen only if the provincial and federal governments each kick in $6 million for the $18.3 million facility.
About 90 people attended the public meeting at the Renfrew Recreation Centre.
Now Ringrose says it’s time for local residents to voice their opinion, preferably in letters, before council decides at the Jan. 14, 2013 council meeting whether it will pursue the facility.
Dropping it now, say close followers of the issue, means the facility probably will become a dead issue for many years.
The public meeting wasn’t intended to be a forum for public opinion, but feedback sheets were available for visitors to drop into a box with their comments in favour or against the facility. Several ballots were submitted before Tuesday’s night presentation even began.
It appears the town will be hard-pressed to generate enough dollars, through taxes and other activities related to the facility, such as name-association donations and rink-board advertising.
Resident Ez Valliquette said the average tax rate increase, to accommodate much of the expected more than $400,000 in annual operating expenses, represents the cost of two tanks of gas.
Leo Hall and Scott Buffam, respective chairmen for the aquatic committee and second ice surface, noted in a joint statement that results of the mayor and council’s evaluation of operating and capital costs show “there is work to do in getting the annual operating expense aligned with what ratepayers can afford.”
However, since they say the facility represents immense social and recreational benefits for the community, they conclude: “It remains our view that the benefits of this project are real, and that meeting the financial challenges remains a top priority for our town.”