By Chad Ingram
Leaders of Minden’s Scouts and Guide groups were dismayed when they discovered through an article in the Times that what has been the Scouts hall at the Minden Hills Community Centre will be turned into a dressing area and offices for a new Junior A team.
However, Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin says he’s reassuring the groups and all other stakeholder organizations that there will be space for them within the township’s new recreation facility, or within other township-owned buildings.
As previously reported, during an April 29 online council meeting, community services director Craig Belfry told council that the Junior A team set to take up residency in the Minden arena this fall – the re-branded Whitby Fury, to be known as the Haliburton County Huskies – would contribute $100,000 for renovations to the building. This includes the renovation of what for decades has been the Scouts and Guides hall – located on the lower level of the community centre portion of the building – into a dressing area, offices, therapy room, etc., for the new team.
However, the leaders of local Scouts and Guides groups had not been made aware of this decision. Up until the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hall was used regularly by these groups for meetings, as well as for storage space for programming materials.
“The current plan leaves these groups without a place to meet or store the necessary materials,” Glen Sharp of the 1st Minden Scouts told the Times, adding a letter had been sent to the township, asking for reconsideration of the decision.
Bryan Kernohan, group commissioner with the Scouts, along with Sharp and Guide leaders Carol Mowat and Janet Hirstwood, issued a letter to members of council and township chief administrative officer Trisha McKibbin.
“It has come to our intention through the local newspapers that council has contracted out our Scout and Guide hall in order to bring a Junior A team to Minden,” that letter reads. “This was done without including our organizations in the negotiations or indeed without any consultation whatsoever to determine the needs to provide programming for the Scouting and Guiding youth of this community. The original donation made by the Rotary Club of Minden was the driving force in the construction of this room in the beginning. Our groups finished the inside of the building as a community project installing the floor tile and painting (more than once). Over the years we have vacated the room for a host of different reasons to accommodate the township’s needs. We were always provided meeting space and we could access our storage areas to get the items needed to provide the youth with the programs. We have shared this space with the township staff and were led to believe that once the new arena complex was completed we would have the room back for Scouts and Guides.
“We have contacted arena staff to see what accommodations could be made for storage and were told there would be none available. We have been told we will have to move all of our stuff out with no help from arena staff and currently no place to put it.
“It is our opinion that the Township of Minden Hills has a moral (if not legal) obligation to consider this matter in a more thorough and community minded manner than has been done to date and perhaps at least contact representatives of Scout and Guides to arrange a more equitable solution.”
Devolin, himself a former president of the Minden Rotary Club, told the Times he was aware of the history of the room, and stressed there would be space for the groups either inside the new, $13-million recreation complex, or within other township-owned facilities.
“Any of these groups are not forgotten,” Devolin said, adding he understood why representatives of the organizations might have been upset, but stressing there will be a place for everyone. Devolin said that a framework for use of community spaces within the new facility would be rolled out before it is open to the public. While the facility is largely completed, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it remains closed for public use and is currently being used as a vaccination hub.
“Beyond the new facility, [there’s] the curling club, the cultural centre … we have lots of assets within the Village of Minden,” Devolin said. “ … Legacy, current and future stakeholders are all important to us, and no one will be forgotten.”
Kernohan told the paper that in addition to storage space, one of the advantages of the hall has been that there’s no expectation that it be cleaned to pristine condition, noting the floor can often be covered in glitter or sawdust following a Guides or Scouts meeting.
“We would spend half the night cleaning [in a different location],” he said.
In a statement emailed to the Times, Belfry said:
“The Township of Minden Hills is committed to working with Minden Scouts and Guides to provide solutions to the change in the operational space in the new recreation complex for these community groups. As part of operationalizing the facility, the municipality is working to meet the needs of current, new and future community groups and users. This has resulted in the rearrangement of programming locations, programming materials and potential storage assignments. The new recreation complex provides flexible and interactive space that has been designed specifically with multi-purpose use in mind. In addition to the recreation complex, staff are exploring alternative options in municipal facilities that could meet the programming and storage needs of these community groups. The township is looking forward to opening the new recreation complex to the community when provincial guidelines allow.”