SOUTH HURON – Council has officially formed the task force that will collaborate with South Huron staff to work on details of the planned renovations to the South Huron Rec Centre.
At its March 1 meeting, council appointed Mayor George Finch, Deputy Mayor Jim Dietrich and Coun. Aaron Neeb to the task force. As previously reported, the task force will work on details such as costing, the scope of the renovations, engineering, recommendations and more. It will return to council with a report within 60 days of the March 1 meeting.
In a recorded vote at the March 1 meeting, councillors voted unanimously that the scope of the renovations at the Rec Centre include: six new dressing rooms at 1,000 square feet each; an officials room and a storage room at 1,000 square feet each; new dasher boards; accessibility improvements to the existing washroom; lighting and electrical upgrades; kitchen upgrades; and a 10,000 square foot single gymnasium with two dressing rooms, a moveable divider wall, a raised walking track and pullout bleachers. Roofing improvements and arena floor and piping replacement will also be looked at although may not be necessary.
Chief administrative officer Dan Best said the task force will have to work with an engineering firm and review some of the engineering studies that have already been done on the facility. At a previous committee of the whole meeting, Coun. Ted Oke said he felt a new engineering report was needed for the Rec Centre, and he repeated that opinion at last week’s meeting. Oke also noted that the current term of council has not gone to the community with this discussion of the arena, and he suggested that the municipality solicit the advice of the various groups that use the Rec Centre, something Dietrich said he agreed with.
“The community has to have some kind of input, and I think we need to do that moving forward,” the deputy mayor said.
Neeb said he is proud of the work that council and staff have done to get the municipality to this point on the arena discussion.
“We have a scope, and a plan to move forward,” he said, adding that while the task force will make recommendations, it will rely on the rest of council for leadership and guidance on the project.
Neeb said if the renovations move ahead, he looks forward to a variety of equal opportunities available in recreation.
“Our residents will have more opportunities than before.”
As well, he said the addition of a walking track will create more opportunities for seniors.
Mayor Finch said after many conversations with taxpayers it is clear to him that the gymnasium and walking track are a priority.
“They are long overdue and can provide year-round use for thousands of South Huron residents for decades to come.”
Finch said there will be something for everyone at a revitalized Rec Centre, and the projected costs are reasonable. He said the project will provide affordable recreation opportunities and will serve as an economic driver for the municipality.
“This project will have positive impacts for decades,” Finch said, explaining that it is the most reasonable and cost effective way to provide services that are needed, fair, affordable and equitable.
Dietrich thanked council for moving the matter forward. A council veteran, Dietrich said an arena project has been talked about for a long time and should have been done long ago.
“I think it’s great for the community,” the deputy mayor said.
In other arena news, while council recently decided to keep the Stephen Township Arena in Huron Park open — after there was a recommendation from the committee of the whole to permanently close it at the end of this season — the ice has been removed for the season. Council decided to remove the ice in the midst of a recent lockdown during which ice facilities could not be used. But during the councillors’ comments portion of the March 1 meeting, Coun. Dianne Faubert, who represents the Stephen ward, said she believed council’s decision to remove the ice for the season was hasty, particularly since the lockdown was lifted shortly after the decision was made.
The ice remains at the South Huron Rec Centre, and the March 1 council agenda included a letter from Exeter Skating Club president Tiffany Morley who said the Skating Club and Kathy McLlwain’s Power Blades Skating were requesting to have the ice season at the Rec Centre extended for the month of April to make up for the lost time during the lockdown in January.
Oke referred to the letter at last week’s meeting and said South Huron Minor Hockey is also considering making such a request.
CAO Best said he’s hopeful to come back to council with a report on a possible extension of the ice season. Due to the lockdown, he said the municipality hasn’t had the revenue stream it would normally have at the Rec Centre.
Before going ahead with an extension, Best said the municipality needs to make sure there will be multiple groups who will be using the ice.