By John McPhee
Despite Deputy Mayor Roland Anstett’s promise that there will be public consultation on a new municipal multi-use complex, two Walkerton residents, who Monday night presented a small “petition” of roughly 100 signatures opposed to its location at East Ridge Business Park, are still concerned that there won’t be public involvement in the project or a cost analysis of other sites.
“The project manager will be able to give us some costs,” Anstett said, acting as chair of the council meeeting with Mayor David Inglis away. “It will happen, if I’m a member of this council I promise you it will,” he said of including the public.
But presenter Jenny Iserman said she was disappointed “that some councillors don’t seem to get the public consultation part.”
She’s also unsure hiring a project manager will bring any transparency to the controversial issue of building new soccer fields, a new adminstrative centre and later a sports complex that could include two rinks, a gymnasium, and other features.
“Having glanced at the Terms of Reference (for the project manager) that (public consultation) wasn’t part of it,” she told The WHT after the meeting.
During their presentation to council both women complained about the lack of public input and the sudden change from an idea of building the new complex to it being a sure thing.
“Somewhere along the way the ‘if’ became a ‘when’,” said presenter Deb Schenk.
“I’m very concerned that the process omitted a step or two, Iserman added. “There hasn’t been wide public consultation.”
They requested council suspend the project to “determine if there’s enough support for it”.
Coun. Chris Peabody said the municipal complex project had “a lot of interrelated issues,” but said putting the soccer fields in ERBP “made a lot of sense” noting that the land was cheaper and with the building of a possible subdivision in the area, the soccer fields would be close to the residential neighbourhood.
Peabody agreed that the biggest concern seemed to be with the location of the administrative centre in the business park.
“We owe it to the citizens to evaluate the cost. Put some concrete numbers to the options,” he said. However, no motion was made by any councillor to put the commitment on the record.
Peabody also said he’s not sure moving the centre to the former Brant Central school would work. “We would have to totally alter the front entrance,” he said, “there would be a lot of renovations”.
Coun. Anne-Louise Gibbons added that from her own experience, “it’s much cheaper to build than to renovate”.
Coun. Kym Hutcheon told the presenters that “we fully intend to include the public. We’re just costing out our dream plan,” she said, adding later that other costs would be examined too.
Schenk said that the people “feel as though they don’t have a voice” in the project.
After the meeting Randy Weber and Brian Dales co-chairs of the Project Management Team, show frustration at the constant complaint of no public consultation.
“Council has to do their due diligence on this,” Weber said. “We’ve been at this for a couple of years now and we’ve barely started.”
After the meeting Iserman told The WHT that the controversial issue has been talked about for several weeks now with residents calling council members to voice their concerns. “People are not getting much of a response from the mayor or councillors,” she said.
Council was supposed to hire a project manager in January, but that decision has been delayed.