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Closing of Civic Centre ice sheet early could have been solved sooner: Mayor

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
February 11th, 2021

The closing of the Civic Centre’s ice sheet should not have happened had it been given more thought and consideration of the impact on the community ahead of time, says the mayor of Nelson.

John Dooley felt the elimination of the second sheet of ice in the city on Jan. 29 due to decreased revenue — directly related to a Public Health Order restricting adult hockey — required more tact and consideration in light of the COVID-19 pandemic still gripping the city.

“It’s unfortunate that this happened,” he said at a budgetary meeting Jan. 29.

“We turned on a dime when COVID hit here and we put together a 25-point action plan that we put out to our community (in order) to react to situations like this, and it’s just too bad it just wasn’t thought about a little sooner. I honestly think we could have solved this and kept those children engaged.”

Adults have not been able to participate in team sports since Nov. 19, 2020 and, as a result, rental revenue in the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s five arenas has decreased by $118,000 between mid-September and the end of December, 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

Given those losses, a regional district press release said the demand for indoor ice could only be met for minor hockey by keeping only the ice sheet in the Nelson and District Community Complex open in Nelson for the rest of the winter season.

All of the regional district and city discretionary funding has been spoken for, noted Coun. Keith Page, the city’s representative on Recreation Commission 5 that helps govern the way recreation is handled in the region.

There was no money left to operate the facility, and it was decided to close early to ensure there was money to have the facility open again in fall, he said.

“I think the undercurrent of a lot of the discussion was a fear that the arena … could be closed permanently, that this was a precursor. That was not true,” he said.

Page said the decision was to stay within the budgetary constraints of Recreation 5 and deliver fair value to the greatest number of kids through the greatest number of seasons.

“And this was one of those trade-offs we had to make,” he said.

Dooley noted these were challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic presence, and people were feeling very stressed about the moment, but the decision to close the Civic Centre did not help that.

“I really think this does put a lot of pressure on young families and children to make this decision at this particular point in time. Being that they were just a month away from the end of their season, we probably could have solved this problem had we been on it a little sooner,” he said.

“I’m not pointing fingers, by any means, because I know that there are some deficits there and how we match up with recreation, but at the same time it deserved more thought than what it got, in my opinion.”

Dooley felt the $24,000 shortfall on the Civic operation could have been raised to keep the facility open, maybe even drawn from city funds, had it been known sooner than later.

“Because it’s a stressful time, it’s a hard time and I think a little more thought should have gone into that,” he iterated. “$24,000 is not a lot of money in the whole scheme of things when people’s mental health and anguish is at stake.”

The commission is now tasked with a service review to clarify roles and responsibilities in recreation going forward, said Coun. Janice Morrison, the city’s other representative on the commission.

Page said much of the schedule going forward into the summer is establishing what the planning documents are for recreation in the city, what responsibilities are and what the terms of reference should be.

“We (will be) trying to go through that work and try and establish what some of those foundational documents, that aren’t really there now, are because this has been on and off with that same problem within the commission” for years, he said.

The door is open and the public is invited to the meetings, Page said, and there will be many over the summer.

“It’s an important conversation and I think wherever we can establish those agreements … where we want to have recreation and where we don’t want to have recreation and where do we have the staff capacity to answer the recreational questions,” he stated.

“The community is, for the most part, confused because of the multiple points of contact and there are separate tables they need to go through, even just for the COVID protocols.

“It’s on us to clear that up.”

Although Dooley agreed the legislation needed to be sorted out as to who delivers what in recreation in the city, the real point was lost in that mix.

“This is the kind of thing that people think governments are like, that they find a thousand reasons why something can’t be done …,” he said, “that we don’t have the agreement done, that we have to do a study, that we are planning on looking at it next week.

“Meanwhile, we are talking about children and their families and mental health and wellbeing and, in my opinion, especially during these times of COVID, it’s disappointing.”

Coun. Rik Logtenberg said it sounded like Dooley was saying the regional district was not considering children and their mental health in their decision to close the Civic Centre.

“And I think that’s not true … it’s their top concern,” he said. “But what they are trying to do is come up with a way, on really short notice … to come up with a solution that would benefit the kids. That’s what was driving this.”

But Dooley agreed.

“They were doing the best they could with what they had at the time. But having said that, had we been a bit ahead of the curve we might have sorted it out to the satisfaction of a bit more people, that’s all I’m saying.”

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