WINDSOR, N.S — The public will have a chance to learn more about Windsor’s proposed arena project, and give some feedback on aspects of the project, during a public information session in March.
The meeting is to be held at the Hants County War Memorial Community Centre on March 13, 2018 at 7 p.m.
In what’s expected to be a busy meeting, it’ll be the first time the public has had a formal chance to ask town staff and council questions about the project, which has been approved for the Long Pond site near King’s-Edgehill School.
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Chief administrative officer Louis Coutinho said senior staff have been working hard to get information prepared for the public meeting.
“There’s a lot of people looking to (see) what we have and wanting a public meeting,” Coutinho said.
“We’ve been plagued with this for the last four years where we haven’t had an opportunity to actually get the real numbers, the figures, and talk about what it really looks like,” he continued.
“This time around we’re hoping we can get something before our public.”
Coutinho said the meeting will be held at the community centre because they’re expecting good turnout.
Updates on the project will also be posted on the town’s website and Facebook page on a weekly basis, he said.
Information, not consultation
Coun. Jim Ivey, who has been critical of the lack of public input throughout the process, said that it’s important that the public understand that they’re not being consulted on this.
“I don’t want to be a broken record on this, but we’ve discussed this as consultation, but these are different events with different aspects,” Ivey said. “I want to be clear on this because when the public hears we’re doing a presentation, all they hear is consultation — they perceive that we’re there to hear what they have to say.”
Coutinho reiterated that the event will be a public information session, not consultation.
“Council made the decision on where the is going to be,” Coutinho said. “I only have a few weeks to get this proposal in and we’re working to meet that deadline.”
Coutinho said the public will be shown up-to-date data about the project and how council arrived at its decision.
Members of the public will be able to ask questions for clarity on the project, the CAO said.
Staff are working with an architect on a proposed $9 million, 500-seat arena, with a hockey heritage component in the entrance. Extras, such as a walking trail or extra change rooms, will depend on how much money is raised.
Coun. Shelley Bibby suggested inviting stakeholders, including local hockey teams, to the session so they can have their questions and concerns addressed.
“Considering the tension and maybe the animosity that’s been created in the community, is it possible to invite specific groups?” Bibby said. “It might be a good step to communicate specifically to the minor hockey associations, to Avon View, anybody who has some kind of stake in the arena’s future.”
Bryan Ripley, a town resident, asked if Windsor could request a one-year extension of the April 1, 2018 deadline to apply for federal funding.
Ripley said that MLA Chuck Porter told him this could be a possibility in a private meeting on Feb. 27.
Coutinho responded, saying the April 1 deadline is related to the province’s commitment of $3 million.
“The province does need to know before March 31 if this project is a go or not or the $3 million goes to another project,” he said. “They need to know and the feds need to know.”
However, in previous council meetings, the public has been told that the March 31 deadline was related to securing federal funds.
When asked for comment, Dale Palmeter, director of issues management in Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison’s office, said eligible projects for the New Build Canada Fund must be submitted by April 1, 2018 for consideration.
The federal government then has 12 months to make a decision on which projects will be approved.
Palmeter said ‘eligible’ means that the proposal has demonstrated that all federal program criteria have been met.
“If a proponent cannot show that they can meet federal criteria by April 1 this year, they will not be considered,” Palmeter said.
“There is more demand than dollars available,” he added.
When reached for comment, MLA Chuck Porter said the $3 million commitment from the province has been on the table since it was announced in January 2016.
"To my knowledge there is no expiry date attached," Porter said.