I asked some of the candidates for Collingwood Town Council 2014 Election the following question:
The PRA sports Dome has been a contentious file since it was first proposed in 2008. It is now slated to be dismantled within the next month. What is your opinion on this much needed facility no longer being available to the residents of Collingwood? What would you have done differently (if anything) from what has been done in the past to support this facility?
Having a year round domed field, is an asset to the community. I would like to have seen this council ask “staff”, to research the issue, and see if there is any opportunity for the dome to remain where it is, remain available to the public and the user groups for rental, and to be self sufficient.
This decision of Council baffles me. At a time when we have a capital asset report that concludes that the municipality is challenged to maintain and replace the facilities and assets it has and we have a private organization with a facility to fill a gap for indoor soccer and other uses, the obvious answer would be that we needed to work our way to a solution to the challenges to allow PRA to keep the sports dome.
The operating agreement between the municipality and PRA (a PPP – private public partnership) was a little more challenging in its “outsourcing” characteristics, but surely the important thing here is the need being filled for the residents at a lesser cost than what it is for the municipality to build it. As long as the agreement fit the delivery of the services for any municipal programming needs at a reasonable cost, in my opinion we should be supporting a successful outcome of a build municipally approved.
It is also another awful waste of upper tier government funds that were granted for and invested in that project. We taxpayers pay those too. The upper tier government funding that went into the PRA project was available for application by both municipalities and private organizations. Therefore, the municipality was competing for funding dollars for qualifying projects. The Town of Collingwood was required to and did approve the project in a staff process outside of a Council motion to my best recollection, but approved none-the-less. I have no recollection of any zoning challenges being brought to Council’s attention at that time.
I do feel that it is a shame to lose this facility that has been well use by the community, especially the soccer league. Since we can’t offer a facility for this use with in the town recreation facilities it is shame to lose it. The main problem appeared to be the fact that Council would not waive the development charges. I do believe there were some mistakes made by some representatives of PRA but since it is a facility that was going to be available to local residents I think the charges should have been deferred and arrangements made to pay down these charges in small increments yearly. I understand that there was likely concern that this would set precedence for other requests but I think these sorts of things can be dealt with on a case by case basis.
Chris Carrier Candidate for mayor
The Council of 2006-2010 approved a lease agreement with Pretty River Academy that would have allowed the municipality to act as the booking agent for the facility. The agreement was approved by the Council and the planning approvals were done in such a way as to allow the interpretation of the sports facility as being part of the municipality’s recreation infrastructure thus exempting them from development charges. Collingwood taxpayers incurred no capital costs nor any ongoing operational costs.
A covered sports dome that is owned by others but still can be used by the municipality as part of the overall plan to deliver recreational uses to our citizens and other stakeholders can be a good thing like it was determined through the review process for the PRA soccer dome facility. This strategic partnership with PRA was a real example of the municipality not incurring the costs to build needed recreational infrastructure but instead finding a creative solution that would benefit many user groups. I would hope there is a similar solution coming from this current Council and PRA before the deadline of dismantling so that this all year round facility can still be used by the school children and other community groups.
As you state the idea of a sports dome at the PRA was proposed long ago in 2008. At that time it was vital that everyone involved got onto the same page to ensure all potential factors/impacts were known. It appears that this was not the case, so that is something that should be done differently in the future to avoid a reoccurrence that results in; the economical construction of, the apparent successful operation of and then the unfortunate dismantling of, a very useful and necessary facility. At the very least Council must ensure that, proper communication from itself and municipal staff of any pertinent factors flows through, to the potential developer. Likewise the developer should maintain communication lines too. I do not know all of the facts about this file to accurately assess whether or not that happened but in future I would work on ensuring that it does.
I had the opportunity to visit the location numerous times during the winter/spring months and it certainly is unfortunate that very shortly it is not going to be available any more. Cost is obviously the overbearing factor whether it is the final construction cost, the pending development charges or the required operational expenses. Whatever the reason It is substantial enough to mean that it isn’t cost effective in spite of a bevy of activity, which produced revenue to offset the costs, over the past year. Hopefully there may still be an opportunity to reduce the current differential between cost and revenue sufficiently through the combined efforts of the parties involved to avoid having to dismantle this facility.
A final thought on this is that the project appears to have been a perfect opportunity for a public private partnership. Instead it appears that it escalated into a public private feud. Most importantly these types of partnership options are going to have to be brought to successful fruition in the future, as Council works on meeting the municipality’s infrastructure needs because of the strained financial position it finds itself in.