Two funding options - about a million dollars apart - are being considered for the much-needed renovation to the ageing Shellbrook Recreation Complex. However, it remains to be seen if neighboring rural ratepayers will contribute.
A public open house hosted by the Shellbrook Recreation Project Steering Committee this week detailed one option that involves renewing key fundamental equipment for around $1.2 million. The second and higher-end option would cost $2.1 million.
“There are certain aspects of the facility… that have really gone beyond their useful life,” committee chair Brent Miller told paNOW. “It’s time for the community to look at doing some sort of an upgrade.”
The committee features fifteen members representing stakeholders from across the area including user groups, fundraising organizations, town and rural residents, and two First Nations bands.
Miller labelled the two cost scenarios as the "base model" and the “Cadillac" option. The less expensive approach would involve what he saw as equipment for a proper functioning arena such as a new ice plant and resurfacing machine, as well as fixes to the ice floor and possible upgrades to the roof trusses. The more expensive second option could see the group secure additional federal grant funding by installing environmentally-friendly improvements such as a new ceiling, ventillation and water systems and by using solar energy.
“The basic upgrade would see a minimal amount of upgrades to get the facility back to being 100 per cent functional,” Miller said. “The [Cadillac approach] is an incremental step that would bring the complex up to being a first class facility.”
Miller said key equipment was already on order and local fundraising over the past two years had generated about $400,000.
While the price tags for the renovations may seem hefty for some, Miller assured Shellbrook residents they would not be impacted financially as the plan is for the upgrades to be paid for over time via grants, fundraising, and possible borrowing.
However, there is a political dimension to the funding puzzle that may yet be a tough sell. The committee is to gauge the appetite of the RM of Shellbrook residents to pay a regular annual amount of $75,000 towards the $230,000 cost of operating the facility. That could mean a tax increase for RM ratepayers. Miller stressed the petition would be non-binding, but said it would help the RM decide how it could proceed on making their funding contribution.
“We should help the RM understand what the taxpayers there want by getting them a list of people who are willing to see the money budgeted annually,” he said.
Miller said the facility draws on a total population base of 11,000 people from the wider region, and “it’s unfair they all have the opportunity to use it yet it’s only the 1,444 ratepayers of Shellbrook who actually pay for it.”
While he acknowledged the RM has made contributions to the complex in the past, he said the population in the RM had now exceeded that of the town and he was hopeful they would look favourably on the petition. Miller said RM councillors who attended the open house this week seemed positive.
However, at least one councillor from the RM thinks the petition idea is the wrong approach.
Derwin Joelson, who represents Division 5, spoke to paNOW in his personal capacity, as he did not have permission to speak on behalf of the RM.
“I applaud the efforts of the steering committee and I think the RM should contribute something to the rec centre,” he said. “However, the method of pushing this down the throats of the RM people is leaving a sour taste, making it tougher to secure funds."
Joelson said a better method to get feedback could be in a questionnaire to all RM residents in their annual tax roll later in the year. He added there are many residents in the RM who would never dream of using the Shellbrook rec complex and others who live in the farther rural parts who would access recreation options in other towns. Joelson noted the steering committee should also seek provincial grants and large corporate sponsorship to help cover costs.
“We’d like to work with the steering committee to get the best of both worlds,” he said.
Joelson said he’d spoken to some residents who flat out refuse to pay towards the facility.
“They’re talking rebellion if this gets rammed through on the RM, and I don’t blame them one little bit. There are ratepayers out here who probably couldn’t find the rec centre in Shellbrook let alone what it looks like.”
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