By Chad Ingram
Published Oct. 31 2016
Minden Hills township continues to facecriticism over a public input process on renovation options for the S.G.Nesbitt Memorial Arena.
Earlier this year the township issued asurvey and held two public meetings regarding the future of the building.
Providing three options the survey askedrespondents to indicate their preferred one. Option A – an upgrading of thecurrent facility – would cost about $3 million. Option B – major renovations tothe building which would include the addition of energy-efficientinfrastructure as well as new change rooms and office space at the front of thearena – would cost some $6.6 million. Option C – the construction of anentirely new arena – would cost between $10 million and $12 million.
At an Oct. 3 public meeting some residentsexpressed concern there had been no research done on what it would cost toincorporate a pool into the design and that more options had not been offered.
During their Oct. 27 meeting Minden Hillscouncillors were visited by township resident Lisa Tolentino who works as ahealthy communities consultant.
Tolentino asked councillors to considerwidening the scope of the township's public input process.
“I'm doing this as an individual who doesthis type of thing professionally” she said. “I'm also here as aresident of Minden Hills. One of the reasons that I care is we are of coursetalking about millions of dollars.”
Tolentino noted that most of the township'sconsultation methods and forms had used the word “arena” as did the name ofthe task force overseeing the process
“This is a misnomer and I think you realizethat” Tolentino said. “The building as we know is a community hall andrecreation centre.”
The S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena is attachedto the Minden Hills Community Centre the buildings essentially forming asingle recreation centre.
Tolentino went on to list the wide varietyof events that take place at the building from public meetings to conferencesto dances and weddings.
“It shows to me this building really is acommunity hub” she said emphasizing the community centre was one of thelargest public spaces in the county. “Never mind those who might have new anddifferent ways of using the building.”
So far in its public input processTolentino said the township had been doing a lot informing and encouraged morecollaboration with community members.
“By collaborating with the community theoutcomes will be far greater than they have so far” she said.
“I think that things have felt divisive upuntil now and I don't think anyone's comfortable with the way things have beengoing.”
Tolentino said she had two requests ofcouncil. One was to start using the term “community centre” instead of “arena”in its consultations on the building and the other was to extend theconsultation period in order to make it more meaningful.
“If we always do what we've always donewe'll always get what we've always gotten” she said.
“We had to start somewhere” said ReeveBrent Devolin adding the task force would be meeting in the near future forthe first time since the last public meeting. “I'll take the blame for thearena name if that's a misnomer. There'll obviously be recommendations afterthe task force meeting. There's a number of things being considered to improvethe process.”
Councillor Pam Sayne said she'd encouragethe task force – which includes Devolin councillors Lisa Schell and RonNesbitt chief administrative office Lorrie Blanchard and community membersPeter Oyler Jim Garbutt and Dwight Thomas – to adopt the process Tolentino wassuggesting.
“I think the community has this belief thateverybody on the committee is anti-pool” said Schell. “I'm not anti-pool.Sitting here [on council] for 10 years this has been going round and round.”
In an email to council later that dayTolentino wrote “to say that I think that I may not have been fully understoodand that I think I have also incorrectly been perceived to be part of the groupof community members who are 'in favour of a pool.'
“For the record I am neither for noragainst a pool. I know that it is a huge cost for a small municipality such asours and I would actually need to be convinced that it would be viable in thelong term before taking a position either way. In fact my presentation hadnothing to do with a pool – which is why I never mentioned it. Rather it hadeverything to do with gaining input from 'other' factions of the communitysuch as those who use the community hall space specifically. I also think thatthe low turnout at the public meetings to date actually reflects that thissegment of the community has not felt that the current 'arena' ( and pool ) based discussions are inclusive of their wants and needs.
“Finally I want to also make it clearthat I am not criticizing the actions of staff council or the task force todate. I fully appreciate that this is a difficult process to navigate and thateveryone involved so far has understandably responded in ways that are based onthe current situation. I am merely hoping that we can change things regardingthe process from here on in so as to achieve an outcome that the majority ofthe community will be happy with.”