Councillor still hopeful branch library could be included in phase one plans

The Prince Albert city councillor pushing to have a branch library included in phase one of the new aquatics and arenas recreation complex plan says she’s confident the move can still happen.

Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp was the driving force behind a proposal to get a branch library included in the first phase of construction, instead of phase three where it’s currently slotted. City council rejected that proposal at their Sept. 21 meeting, but Lennox-Zepp believes that could change depending who gets elected this fall.

“I wanted us to commit to a branch library in phase one, and I firmly believe that can still happen, even though it didn’t happen (last meeting)” Lennox-Zepp said during an interview on Friday. “Council will receive the design that’s being drafted … and whenever that comes back to council, whoever is elected at that point, they can vote and say, ‘we have the design now and we do want to build a branch library as part of phase one.’”

Lennox-Zepp called the decision “low-hanging fruit” and pointed out that most of the new recreation facilities being built across Canada included some size of library as part of their plans. She added that her constituents overwhelmingly support the decision.

“I have heard from members of the public that if we’re going to spend $60-million on this multiplex, there has to be a branch library in the building,” she said. “If you look across Canada, communities simply for the most part do not build multiplexes without a branch library.”

Lennox-Zepp’s decision drew criticism from her colleagues on council, many of which said they were confused by her reaction. Mayor Greg Dionne was her most vocal critic. He said it doesn’t make sense that a councillor would vote against building the recreation facility, then start making demands about what goes inside of it.

“It’s frustrating sometimes, what we have to deal with,” Dionne said. “Here’s a person who said very loudly—she was the most vocal—no. Then, once it passed and she realized it was going ahead, she jumped on board … and wants to spend another $4-million on the project and put a branch library in the (development) that she opposes.”

Dionne added that he’s not opposed to building a branch library, but believes the city doesn’t have the funds to make it a priority is phase one.

Other council members, like Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody, echoed those comments during the Sept. 21 debate, saying Lennox-Zepp was making a mountain out of a mole hill.

“I’m not suggesting at all I don’t want a library, but I’m not going to have it right now because we haven’t got the money,” Cody said during the meeting. “If you can find the money for it, I’ll tell you what—I’ll be the first person to put it there, and be the first person to put a daycare there, but we have no money today. All we have today is allocated to those three things: the aquatic centre and two rinks.”

“If you’re opposed to the land and the location, sure as to hell you can’t build anything on it,” he added.

When asked about those comments, Lennox-Zepp said she fully supported building a new recreation centre, but voted against it because she didn’t like the location, or the fact that the City spent more than $6-million on a parcel of land. As long as it’s being built, she said it has to contain the right amenities, and that starts with a branch library.

“I have grave concerns about the specifics of buying land and of the agreement,” she said. “However, if the city is proceeding on a multiplex … then we need to do a good job of it, regardless of the fact that the land requisition has passed, and an agreement has passed that I disagree with. You still have to govern even if you disagree with how the process has been enacted.”

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