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Scugog moving forward with Blackstock arena project process

DAN CEARNS The Standard

SCUGOG: The Township of Scugog is hoping to secure funds through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) for their new Blackstock arena and community centre project. At a special council meeting on Monday, November 4th, Carol Coleman, Scugog’s Director of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, made a presentation to council regarding an update on the project and information about the grant opportunity. Ms. Coleman told councillors the estimated cost to maintain the arena in its current state, if council decided not to replace it, is $4.65 million. “If we do nothing, then the arena will close in the near future,” Ms. Coleman said. Through the process of working on this project, one of the community partners the township has spoken to was Mississaugas of Scugog Island Chief Kelly LaRocca. “The Chief has supported this project. She would really like to see programs for First Nations people as part of this project, and she will be providing a letter of support for the grant we are asking to submit,” Ms. Coleman said. Ms. Coleman explained what staff are proposing for the project, including retaining “community hall, kitchen and meeting rooms that are there now”, adding “a new modern arena, single pad with NHL-size ice with 200 to 300 seats”, a double gymnasium, a multi-purpose space, an indoor walking and running track and a reconfigured fairground. One benefit of this project, Ms. Coleman explained, is it will “bring economic stimulus to Scugog in general, but Blackstock area in specific.” Ms. Coleman was also seeking council to authorize the submission to the grant program that, if successful, would fund up to 73.33 percent of the project costs. “This is a great opportunity,” Ms. Coleman said. The ICIP funding breakdown would see 40 percent of the funding from the federal government and 33.33 percent from the provincial level. Ms. Coleman noted full council and community support is important as it will be a “highly competitive grant program.” Ward 2 Councillor Janna Guido questioned if there is a desire in the community for a larger rink in Blackstock like the one proposed. “The feedback I’ve heard is there is a desire to have a full size ice rink there,” Ms. Coleman responded. Councillor Guido added she would feel “uncomfortable” supporting the grant application without knowing the operating costs of the new facility. Ms. Coleman stated council will likely see a proposed design for the project early in 2020, and at that time council could also see estimated operating costs. “Is that too late for us to put our hands up and say we can’t afford this?” Councillor Guido said. CAO Paul Allore said the project “is feasible financially.” Regional Councillor Wilma Wotten attempted to dispel a rumour about the project’s popularity. “Rumours have it that the community was not behind it. I would certainly suggest that is a falsehood, and much of the community is for it,” she said.

She noted the Black-stock Arena has been identified as a priority in the last three Township master plans. “When do we stop paying, stop hiring consultants if we are not going to listen to them,” Councillor Wotten said. Ward 3 Councillor Angus Ross questioned what would happen if council is unsuccessful with this grant application. “If we are not successful with getting this grant, then this project will not proceed, unless another opportunity comes forward,” Ms. Coleman responded. Councillor Ross also stated his concern with whether the township can afford the extra 26 percent of the project costs the township would be on the hook for. Though Ward 4 Councillor Deborah Kiezebrink stated council will still have an opportunity at a later time to make decisions to rein in the project costs if need be. Treasurer Dianne Valentim said this grant is “a very good funding opportunity” for Scugog. Councillor Wotten said she would expect this council to do their due diligence on this project. Ward 5 Councillor Lance Brown asked if the township expects the arena to make money. “It’s the same as many things we provide in this community, it’s a service. The library doesn’t make money either, and our roads certainly don’t make any money,” Mayor Bobbie Drew said. “We’re not in the business of making money, we are in the business of making this a great place to live, work, play and raise your kids.” Council later approved a motion to authorize and support an application to the 2019 intake of this grant program.

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