Motion to have residents vote on new recreation centre project denied at Monday council meeting

A motion to have citizens vote on whether to build a new recreation complex with an indoor pool and two hockey rinks was ruled out of order at Monday’s council meeting because the land purchase has already been finalized.

Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky’s motion would have had residents vote on whether to build the complex as part of the 2020 municipal election this November. However, Mayor Greg Dionne denied a vote on the matter at Monday’s meeting because the project was too far along to stop.

“The deal is already done,” Dionne said in an interview afterwards. “We’ve already spent the money. We’ve already signed the deal, so it’s an aftereffect.”

Nowoselsky said he wasn’t surprised the motion failed to pass, although the method was unexpected.

“I had initially expected it was just going to be a 5-4 recorded vote not to support it, just like usual,” he said afterwards. “That’s what I was expecting, and when they ruled it out of order, they were finding some (other) tactic they could have used to say ‘let’s not have the public have any major input into this.’”

Nowoselsky doesn’t think the city needs more hockey rinks, but supports an indoor pool and waterslide. Even if he supported both, however, he doesn’t think the timing is right. He’d rather see the City spend money on infrastructure projects, like a waste water treatment plant or pumping station. He also said the City needs to begin replacing more than 50 km of water and sewer pipes. He expects those projects would cost just as much as the new recreation facility.

“You want to build a new hospital, but if we don’t have water coming from the river to the water treatment, if we don’t have sewer going, what good is a new hospital?” he said. “What’s the easiest way to keep people healthy? Good water and sewer.”

Nowoselsky said he plans to make infrastructure replacement one of his priorities when he starts campaigning for mayor on Wednesday. He said too many residents don’t understand how badly Prince Albert’s infrastructure needs to be fixed. He hoped the debate at Monday’s meeting would help shed light on those numbers.

“I want the public to be involved and hear all sides of issues and tell the truth and have all the facts,” he explained. “Obviously, you’ve seen how it was dealt with tonight. Anybody would have let the debate go on (and) let the public see the debate. The media would have covered everything and it wasn’t done. That says it all.”

Dionne dismissed concerns those concerns. He said the City applied to federal infrastructure grant programs for funding. Those requests were denied, while a proposal to build a new arenas and aquatics facility was approved.

“He wants to use the money for the secondary sewage treatment plant. Well, unfortunately, if we try to do that we’ve got to give the money back to Ottawa because they gave it to us for the two rinks and the pool,” Dionne explained. “He surprised me. For the amount that he’s been on council, he should know how all three levels of government work.”

Dionne also accused Nowoselsky for campaigning during a council meeting, instead of working together with the rest of council.

“From today on, it’s silly season,” Dionne said. “The election’s on, and that’s the only reason he brought that up.”

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