Other ‘realities’ to look at

Dear sir:
Coun. Bourgeault has been quoted about a reality “out on the street” which should be honestly stated, namely what the real cost of the single new ice surface will come in at.
With all due respect, I would like to point out other realities that should be out among the electorate, honestly.
Reality #1–In 1991, “Ice for Kids” approached Mayor Witherspoon and the council of the day about a second, covered artificial ice rink. The group was told times were tough, and the mayor and council sent them out to raise some money.
The first donor was Chuck Arpin. The local Kiwanis club, always kid oriented, contributed $2,000 early on. In those “tough times,” Ice for Kids collected $170,000.
Reality #2–At the last meeting of that term (October, 1994), Mayor Witherspoon persuaded the council to approve $1 million in finances for an auditorium attached to the “multi-use” facility planned for Westfort.
There was no member of the auditorium group at that meeting and no paperwork.
Reality #3–In 1996, the mayor and council (including G. Witherspoon, S. Tibbs, D. Cunningham, and B. Martin) authorized the auditorium group to solicit pledges from the public and they did so to the tune of more than $500,000.
Reality #4–Election year 1997. The mayor and council (including Witherspoon, Tibbs, Cunningham, and Martin) made the “Rendez-Vous Promise” to build a side-by-side twin ice facility if Ice for Kids collected pledges to a total of $500,000.
This they did in 30 days (what generous citizens who gave not once but twice!)
Reality #5–The mayor and council (again including Witherspoon, Tibbs, Cunningham, and Martin) authorized the signing of a contract for an “L-shaped,” two-sheet arena complex at a cost of $4.6 million.
Ice for Kids said it was too elaborate but were told it couldn’t be changed.
Reality #6–On further study, the town found it had engaged a company that couldn’t be bonded. It has never been “out on the street” who signed on behalf of the town, and whether anyone was censured for this error.
Reality #7–At a council meeting in January, 1998, I stood in front of the mayor and council , outlined their actions of 1997, and asked them what made them believable this year (’98).
The answer was that they had learned a lot in one year.
Reality #8–A headline on a news item in a local paper stated “Rink team” meeting slated and mentioned Brian Avis as project manager (a good, qualified choice).
A second news item, under the headline “Rink to see spring start,” went on to say “The puck should be dropped in the new indoor ice facility here in mid-November, 1999,” with the town and Ice for Kids reps to look at preliminary designs and cost estimates at a meeting Sept. 8, 1998.
From this date fast-forward to the Times issue of April 2, 1999 that quoted Coun. Bourgeault saying the electorate has been led to believe the shovel would go in the ground in late April, 1999, with the completion date, as mentioned above, in mid-November, 1999.
Reality #9–In another news item headlined “Council gives final nod to ’98 budget,” paragraph one stated, “Residential taxpayers could expect an average 10.1 percent hike over last year on their final municipal tax bills as Fort Frances council sets the ’98 budget into bylaw Monday night.”
At this meeting, council changed the ratio of commercial to residential tax and thereby reduced the commercial tax levy. This ratio was changed again last October, further reducing commercial taxes. Another change can occur this October with still another reduction in commercial taxes.
I have to say that the only citizens who questioned this shift of taxes from commercial to residential was the NAG group, who spoke up but to no avail.
Talk on the “street” is “we don’t want an increase.” Well, folks, we’ve already had the increase!
Reality #10–One of Coun. Bourgeault’s early remarks was to the effect that something should be done to interest the young people in front of the pool hall and eliminate the congestion.
I suggest fulfilling the Ice for Kids project and thereby looking after the needs of the following groups:
•minor hockey (500 players aged six to 18);
•figure skating club (300 boys and girls);
•adult recreational hockey (150);
•girls’ and women’s hockey (150 and growing);
•the Muskie hockey players;
•summer rollerblade hockey (develop it); and
•weekly 12-24 team tournaments
Ice for Kids never asked for anything but a second covered artificial ice surface. Our town council took over the design and financing of the project and have spent many dollars getting to this point. Project manager Brian Avis has done his job well.
To not proceed would make out town fathers look ludicrous, and what construction firm would continue to pick up bid packages with this record?
The saddest part of all is that Mayor Witherspoon and council did not see the great enthusiasm “on the street” as residents pledged $1 million towards two projects they endorsed whole-heartedly. It could have been such fun and given such community pride.
It is hoped the mayor and council will not drop the ball, but get it done so we can drop the puck!
Ice for Kids has been at this for eight years. That kind of persistence should be rewarded. If the mayor and council wished to be cruel to a segment of town’s people, they couldn’t do a better job of it.
The tragedy is that the kids will be the losers–and they can’t fight back.
We could, of course, do a “Rip Van Winkle” and go to sleep for another eight years, and guess at costs in the year 2007.
Yours truly,
Kenneth J. Egan
Voter and taxpayer
P.S. Project manager Brian Avis has made sure all i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed so the cost is known at the outset. There will be no sequential bidding that has caused so much uncertainty at the “multi-use” and auditorium.