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Saturday, February 17, 2018

MD Council defers funding decision on proposed Pincher Creek curling rink


Jonathan Skrimshire - Council for the Municipal District of Pincher Creek deferred any decision on funding of the proposed new Pincher Creek curling rink pending clarification of ownership and an assessment of the MD's priorities.

Council is seeking a formal statement from the Town of Pincher Creek clarifying ownership of the proposed facility. Council has also resolved to allocate time to discuss recreational facility needs and priorities within the MD before meeting with Town Council on March 8th to address the Curling Club's request for $1.25-million towards the project.

Discussions during both the morning Committee meeting and afternoon regular Council meeting February 13 revealed the difficulties Council is facing in dealing with the Club's request and other major new requests for funding not included in the 2018 budget.

Financing options

Director of Finance Janene Felker presented Council, sitting as a committee, with several options for financing the $1.25-million sum requested by the Curling Club, including direct taxation through the municipal mill rate over a period of three, four or five years. She also addressed the possibility of borrowing through a debenture, which would provide the option of spreading repayment over a significantly longer period of time.

Felker apprised Council of the $438,000 balance available in the Town Recreation Facilities Reserve, noting that current policy dictates monies from the reserve be allocated only for Town-owned facilities. She emphasized that "it isn't clear whether the Town will be taking ownership and the fact that the request is coming from the [Curling Club] and not the Town is a factor to consider."

It was clear from Felker's presentation that acceding to the Club's funding request would require Council to raise significant additional revenues. "There's not enough in reserves", she said. "We do have significant MSI [Municipal Sustainability Initiative] funds, but there are very substantial upcoming infrastructure projects that will require those funds."

Council seeks clarification of ownership

Ownership of the proposed new curling rink is at present unclear. Minutes of the Pincher Creek Facilities Planning Steering Committee, dated November 30, 2017, indicate that the Curling Club is identified as the title holder of the proposed facility in the grant application submitted to the provincial Community Facilities Enhancement Program (see Note 1). The motion (see Note 2) committing land and funding to the project passed by Pincher Creek Town Council on November 14, 2017, clearly suggests that the Club will be the project prime on this undertaking, and that the ownership structure will be similar to that which currently exists: a Club-owned building situated on land leased from the Town. Nonetheless, statements have subsequently been made in other forums suggesting the new rink will be a Town-owned facility.

Discussion of the curling rink project in the afternoon Council meeting began with Councillor Brian Hammond seeking clarification of the ownership question. "I'd like to have some kind of official notice from the Town of Pincher Creek that they intend to assume ownership of the facility", he said.

Councillor Rick Lemire indicated that it was his understanding that the Town would be the title holder. "I sit on the [Pincher Creek] Facilities [Planning Steering] Committee, and I'm pretty confident on who's going to own it. But I guess we need that in writing."

Reeve Quentin Stevick was in agreement on the need for a formal statement. "I would like to see Council pass a resolution requesting the Town give us a letter in writing that they will accept ownership of the proposed curling rink", he said.

Council debates need for facilities planning

Council appeared to be struggling somewhat with how to address major un-budgeted items, such as the $1.25-million request from the Curling Club, given that the recently elected group have not yet agreed upon their plans or priorities as a Council.

Councillor Terry Yagos felt Council wasn't adequately prepared to discuss the matter of the proposed curling rink with Town Council. "We can't go over and talk to somebody else if we don't know what we want for our MD", he said. "I would like us to have a facilities plan so that the MD can represent it's position when we talk and collaborate with the other jurisdictions."

Lemire objected to Yagos's proposal, arguing that a facilities plan for the MD would duplicate efforts that should be part of Council's strategic planning session, tentatively scheduled to take place in June, and the forthcoming Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework talks with the Town, mandated by the Municipal Government Act.

Councillor Bev Everts also felt a facilities plan represented a duplication of effort, and objected to the idea of Council alone attempting to set priorities. "I'd be concerned how we're going to start making a plan to meet the goals and needs of the MD without engaging in a public process", she said. "Here we are trying to make financial decisions ahead of our priority setting and strategic planning. And we've been presented with this and we haven't had the opportunity to have had that dialogue as this current Council."

Yagos suggested that public engagement could be part of the process at some point, but was insistent upon the need to discuss the MD's priorities before meeting the Town. "What we're doing is we're following the lead of the Town of Pincher Creek's facilities plan. Why can't we start a facilities plan of our own", he asked. "Let's start and say what do we need in the MD. What facilities should we have in the MD? Who should we work with on some of these facilities? [...] Hopefully by the time we meet with the Town we will at least have an elementary plan of the recreational facilities we need and what we want to work on."

Hammond was broadly supportive of the idea. "I don't have a problem with having a discussion and developing an attitude or a philosophy around how we want to support our community facilities, because right now it's often piecemeal and hit and miss [...] Let's not let individual unique initiatives drive our general direction [...] We need to decide what that general direction needs to be, instead of being driven by individual initiatives as they come through the door."

Yagos also wanted to ensure that Town Council was made aware of the financial constraints facing the MD. "I think we've got to look at the budget situation, and the Town's got to realize that if we go for this [the curling rink] there might not be very much money from the MD for anything new in the future", he said. "We've got to set priorities and we've also got to figure out how we're going to fund it. Especially as we're getting into some difficult times"

Hammond made it clear the MD's support shouldn't be taken as a given. "I don't want to be presented with a fait accompli. I want to be able to have a discussion around what our priorities are, what the bigger picture is for our jurisdiction - what our obligations are. And that not all the things that come through the door for support are we going to be able, or even perhaps willing, to support", he said.

Conclusion

Council's discussion of the Curling Club's funding request concluded with the passage of two motions. The first requested a formal statement from the Town of Pincher Creek regarding ownership of the proposed new facility. It now falls to Pincher Creek Town Council, in conjunction with the Curling Club, to resolve this question.

The same motion also requested that the curling rink issue be included on the agenda of the forthcoming Joint Council meeting. Initial information from MD administration indicates the meeting in question, scheduled for the evening of March 8, will be closed to the public and press.

The second motion allocated time on the agenda of the February 27 Council meeting to start a facilities plan for the MD. That exercise is intended to inform Council's position during the forthcoming Joint Council discussions. The motion passed on a split 3-2 vote, Councillors Everts and Lemire opposed.

Notes

Note 1) Minutes of the Pincher Creek Facilities Planning Steering Committee, dated November 30, 2017, item 4 b iii, "Ownership", states "The Curling Club made the application to CFEP as the owner of the facility." A fact-check email sent to the Curling Club requesting confirmation of the accuracy of this statement received no reply.

Note 2) Pincher Creek Town Council motion 17-417, November 14, 2017:

That Council for the Town of Pincher Creek agree to provide the following information to the Community Facility Enhancement Program regarding the construction of a new curling rink in Pincher Creek:
    1) that the Town will allow a new Pincher Creek Curling Rink to be constructed at the Pincher Creek Multi-Purpose Facility site described as Lot 1 Block 5 Plan 9111546 Pincher Creek, being land owned by the Town of Pincher Creek;
   2) that the Town will provide the Pincher Creek Curling Club with access to the described lands for the purpose of carrying out this project;
   3) that the Town is committed to contribute $1,250,000 as matching financial support for this project; and
   4) that the Town will enter into a 5-year lease agreement with the Pincher Creek Curling Club with terms similar to previous lease agreement.


1 comment:

  1. This is a copy of an email sent Dec.12 2017 to this reporter regarding the question of ownership.
    On Dec 12, 2017, at 10:11 PM, Deb Reed wrote:

    1. The town knew about the application but did not help prepare it as the curling club is a privately owned facility.

    2. CFEP large funding cannot be applied for by municipalities. The curling club is listed as the applicant for a new rink. After it meets all requirements set forth by CFEP, the club will be able to transfer the title to the town.

    I hope this answers your questions.

    Debbie Reed

    On Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 1:28 PM Jonathan Skrimshire wrote:
    Debbie,

    A couple of short questions re the Club's CFEP grant application:

    1) Was the Town of Pincher Creek involved in any capacity in the preparation of the grant application?

    2) Who is identified in the grant application as the titleholder of the proposed rink structure? The Pincher Creek Curling Club? Or the Town of Pincher Creek?

    Thank you,

    Jonathan Skrimshire

    ReplyDelete

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